VW’s new 3D printing technology will allow lighter metal parts that can be mass-produced
Volkswagen says it uses a new 3D printing process called “binder jet” at its headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany. The process allows it to manufacture components 50% lighter than sheet steel parts.
The binder jet replaces the laser used in traditional 3D printing with a two-step process that involves the use of an adhesive to join the parts together. The process, VW says, allows it to cut costs and increase productivity. Volkswagen is currently the only automaker to use this process.
Concretely, the first parts manufactured with the process (which are currently awaiting internal certification) are A-pillar components for the T-Roc Cabriolet. The parts are, in fact, about half the weight of what they would be if they had been manufactured in the traditional way and Volkswagen claims to have already tested the impact resistance of 3D printed parts.
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“Despite the current challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, we continue to work on innovation,” said Christian Vollmer, VW’s production and logistics manager. “Together with our partners, we aim to make 3D printing even more efficient in the years to come and suitable for use in production lines. “
Volkswagen also announced that it has entered into a software partnership with Siemens to complement the existing printer partnership it has with HP Inc. This, it says, will allow it to achieve even more production benefits and lead efficiency gains such as nesting, in which several parts are produced at the same time in the same printing chamber. Together, these innovations will make 3D printing cheap enough to be viable in mass-produced vehicles, according to VW.
The new technology is just the latest in VW’s long history with 3D printing, which dates back 25 years. By 2025, the automaker plans to produce up to 100,000 3D printed parts per year.