Germany - The OEM has been working with Premium Aerotec and EOS to develop an additive manufacturing production cell that can make parts out of aluminium. The cell is fully automated, and is located at the Premium Aerotec facility in Varel, northern Germany.

A EOS M 400-4 four-laser 3D printing system sits at the heart of the cell. It is equipped with a powder station and linked to a separate unpacking station, allowing the filling and emptying of the system to be carried out independently.

"In this project we have already succeeded in significantly reducing the production cost per part, thus creating an economic perspective for large-scale digital 3D printing factories," observed Dr. Thomas Ehm, CEO of Premium Aerotec.

For the next stage of the project, each component created with the system will be tested while production data will be collected and analysed. For Jasmin Eichler, Daimler's head of research future technologies, it could have a considerable impact on the company's production plans.

"3D printing is well on the way to establishing itself in the automotive sector as an additional manufacturing method with great versatility," she said. "With this collaborative pre-development project, we are taking a significant step towards achieving cost-effectiveness in metal 3D printing throughout the process chain. The project lays the cornerstone for the future realisation of larger quantities in the automotive series production process – with the same reliability, functionality, longevity, and economy as for components from conventional production."

Several other OEMs have been looking at ways to enhance 3D printing processes. General Motors, for example, recently announced it was using new generative design software technology to create parts that are then 3D printed for proof-of-concept, while Ford has examining potential use cases for production-ready parts made with additive manufacturing tools.