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The case study of how Volkswagen is using Metal 3D Printing to bring down the cost of production reveals how far along this technology has come. The plant uses 3D Printers to create 1,000 pars using, essential a 3D Print Farm at its plant in Portugal. 3D Printing allows for the printing of complex structures and also creates significantly less waste than traditional manufacturing practices.
German car manufacturer Volkswagen is no stranger to additive manufacturing technologies, as the company has been exploring various applications for 3D printing in the automotive industry.
At its Volkswagen Autoeuropa plant in Portugal, for instance, the company reported producing as many as 1,000 parts using its fleet of Ultimaker 3D printers last year and has seen significant cost savings since implementing the technology.
course, most eyes in the auto industry are focused on the potentials of metal 3D printing. While the technology is remarkable for its ability to produce complexly structured parts in record times, Jörg Spindler, the head of equipment and metal forming at Audi’s Competence Center, believes that metal 3D printing is not quite the be all and end all technology it is often made out to be.
“Carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer didn’t knock steel sheets out of the game,” he explains. “Rather, it created new possibilities. Metallic 3D printing is also not a competing process in mass production. But it will certainly lead to significant progress in some sub-areas.”
The progress he mentions is owed to 3D printing’s ability to manufacture complex and innovative structures, all while reducing material waste, and overall part weight. For the automotive industry, lighter parts mean more efficiency in fuel consumption, which in turn means more environmentally efficient vehicles.
A team from Volkswagen Osnabrück, which has been investigating how 3D printing can be used to reduce the weight of parts, demonstrated that it could cut back the weight of an A-pillar reinforcement system by a whopping 74%, all while maintaining strength and durability of the parts.
Knuth Walczak, the head of innovation and advance development management in the E Department at Porsche, adds that 3D printing has been useful in adding functionalities to certain small batch car parts. For example: a part can be redesigned to incorporate internal cooling or air flow channels, which might cut back on extra parts whose sole function is cooling.