VW has entered into a software partnership with Siemens and expanded its existing collaboration with printer manufacturer HP to develop 3D printing processes to support future production operations
The OEM says it is using one of the newest process – binder jetting – to manufacture components at its plant at Wolfsburg, Germany. This process uses an adhesive rather than a laser to build the components. The resulting metallic part is then heated and shaped. It’s claimed that this process will reduce component costs and increase productivity. “Together with our partners, we aim to make 3D printing even more efficient in the years ahead and suitable for production-line use,” says Christian Vollmer, member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Brand responsible for Production and Logistics.
Through development work with its partners, implementing the first full-scale use of binder jetting, VW says it will acquire important experience and learn, for example, which components can be produced economically and quickly in the future. HP is providing the high-tech printers needed and Siemens the special software for additive manufacturing. One key process step that has been worked on jointly by Siemens and VW is optimising the positioning of components in the build chamber. Known as nesting, this technique makes it possible to produce twice as many parts per print session.
The three companies intend to establish a joint expert team at the high- tech 3D printing centre, which opened in Wolfsburg in 2018, and enables the manufacture of complex automotive components using 3D printing. The centre also trains employees in the use of these technologies.
By 2025, the aim is to produce up to 100,000 components by 3D printing in Wolfsburg each year. The first components made using the binder jetting process have gone to Osnabrück for certification: components for the A pillar of the T-Roc convertible. These weigh almost 50% less than conventional components made from sheet steel.
VW says it has already successfully conducted crash tests on 3D-printed metallic vehicle components. Until now, the production of larger volumes was not cost-effective enough. However, the new technology and the collaboration will now make production-line use economically viable.