Germany - The OEM has announced that it is the first car maker to be using HP Metal Jet - a metallic 3D printing process that is more simple and faster than other existing techniques. According to the company, productivity is improved by fifty times compared to these other methods.

"Automotive production is facing major challenges: our customers are increasingly expecting more personalisation options," commented Dr Martin Goede, VW's head of technology planning and development. "At the same time, complexity is increasing with the number of new models. That’s why we are relying on state-of-the-art technologies to ensure a smooth and fast production. 3D printing plays a particularly important role in manufacturing of individual parts."

HP Metal Jet works by producing a powder and binder layer by layer, which is then baked into a metallic component in the sintering process. Previous 3D printing techniques, on the other hand, used a laser to melt the powder.

The average VW car includes around 6,000 to 8,000 parts. By using HP Metal Jet, the OEM believes it can make the manufacturing of its vehicles significantly easier and more efficient.

The next step, says VW, is to work alongside GKN Powder Metallurgy to ready the technology for the creation of mass produced parts. The supplier is said to be establishing a "process chain geared toward automotive production" in order to serve VW. The companies hope to be able to start making large volumes of parts for mass vehicle production in the next two to three years.

Several other car makers, such as Ford, are also testing 3D printing technologies with the hope of using the parts in production vehicles.