New Generation BMW Luxury Line Will Make Use of 3D Printed Parts

Article by Christian A., on July 24, 2016

The process of building a car is a long and tedious task especially for luxury lines. Cars such as Rolls-Royce are known to have been meticulously and painstakingly made compared to common commercial cars. These vehicles tend to consume more time than it takes to build mainstream cars and need more resources to make the parts.

Now, the world as we know it is constantly changing at a rapid pace which means that technology has evolved to become proportional to time. Time has been a very important factor in the production industry especially in the automotive world where various automakers have to compete among themselves to produce the latest technology. With new technologies on the rise, the mass production of vehicles has become faster thus resulting to lower production time and lower cost. Moreover, production is increased which translates to more sales.

One of the most recent technological innovations slowly taking root in various production plants is the process called Additive Manufacturing or what we commonly call 3D Printing. Back then we thought that it would be impossible to print a three-dimensional object in real life but now it has been made possible. In fact, it has been used in various industries including the automotive world.

German automaker BMW has been using the said technology for over 25 years primarily to produce prototypes or “one-off custom parts” and in 2012, it made end-use parts for their new Rolls-Royce Phantom. More than 10,000 3D printed components have been produced over the years used for each Phantom coupe that came off their assembly line. BMW was able to successfully (and effectively) incorporate 3D printed hazard-warning light holders, center lock buttons and electronic parking brakes and sockets into the Phantom coupe. Through this breakthrough, the German automaker has by far successfully converted traditionally manufactured parts to 3D printed components and will begin to incorporate the same technology into this year’s Rolls-Royce Dawn.

The 2016 Rolls-Royce Dawn will come with 3D printed mounting brackets for the fiber optic lines - wires, hoses and fiber optic-cables. As much as it has disappointed most Rolls-Royce purists who expected its production line to be made exactly as its ancestors (which in translation is about exerting “blood, sweat and tears”), it has become advantageous in a sense that the 3D printers have made it doable to plaster the owner’s name on the mounting bracket. Also, BMW admitted that there are various parts on the Dawn that are just impossible to produce using the conventional manufacturing technologies and so 3D printing became their best resort.

Only some of the components for BMW’s future vehicles will be made from this 3D technology so we won’t be expecting full-fledged 3D-printed cars from the German automaker yet. This technology has benefitted BMW by minimizing production time and saving cost replacing plastic-made components such as holders for hazard-warning lights, center lock buttons, electronic parking brakes, and sockets. Parts are manufactured faster using the said technology as compared to the traditional method but BMW maintains the same quality standards. The BMW group aims to make additive technologies its main production method in its future endeavors and is expecting to expand the use of their advanced 3D printed parts on all of their vehicles.

Press Release

Series components made by 3D printers: BMW Group expands use of additive manufacturing processes

With more than 10,000 additively-manufactured parts built into the Rolls-Royce Phantom, the BMW Group has been using components from 3D printers in series production since 2012. The company will continue to expand this pioneering role in the future. The Additive Manufacturing Centre at the company’s Research and Innovation Centre (FIZ) has also been using these forming processes to produce parts for the new Rolls-Royce Dawn since the start of the year.

The BMW Group is steadily pursuing the evolution and use of advanced additive-manufacturing methods. Planar 3D printing technologies will enable much faster production times and more economical production in the future.

Udo Hänle, head of Production Strategy, Technical Integration: “Additive technologies will be one of the main production methods of the future for the BMW Group – with promising potential. The integration of additively-manufactured components into Rolls-Royce series production is another important milestone for us on the road to using this method on a large-scale. By utilising new technologies, we will be able to shorten production times further in the future and increasingly exploit the potential of tool-less manufacturing methods.”

Successful use in series production at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

Plastic holders for hazard-warning lights, centre lock buttons, electronic parking brakes and sockets for the Rolls-Royce Phantom have been made in this way since the start of production in 2012. Mounting brackets for fibre-optic cables used in the Rolls-Royce Dawn have also been produced by 3D printers since the start of the year, and the company will install several thousand of these clips throughout the model lifecycle. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is a pioneer in the use of the most innovative production technologies of the future.

The advantages of additive manufacturing are visible early on, especially for components with a complicated design. Production times are significantly shorter than for conventional production methods, while still meeting the same high quality standards.

Planar processes enable shorter production times

The BMW Group is constantly working to refine additive manufacturing processes for series production. The new, planar printing technologies enable considerably faster production times than conventional point-to-point 3D printing methods. Beamers or infrared sources are used to expose the full surface, rather than point-to-point, high-priced light sources, such CO2 or UV lasers.

Jens Ertel, head of the BMW Group’s Additive Manufacturing Centre: “Planar technologies are central to the use of additive processes in series production. The most recent example can be found in the preliminary trials of the HP Multi Jet Fusion technology. The process will initially be used in prototyping, but we plan to extend it into series production over the long term.” The process utilises print heads and liquid agents, like a conventional inkjet printer.

At the start of the process, a thin layer of base powder material is applied. The print head then sprays fusing and detailing agents onto the powder bed. What is unusual is that, at virtually the same time, the respective layer of the component is fused using infrared radiation. This speeds up production time and increases flexibility.

Late last year, a breakthrough was achieved in the field of planar 3D printing process with the introduction of so-called CLIP technology (Continuous Liquid Interface Production). This method shortens production times considerably, since it works with planar exposure from a beamer. The BMW Group used the process for the first time to produce individualised side indicators for the “DriveNow” car-sharing fleet. In a social media campaign, German customers voted on names for a total of 100 MINIs in the fleet. CLIP technology was then used to integrate these in the indicator body of the vehicles being tested on the roads in Germany.

Years of experience – a wide range of applications

The BMW Group has successfully used 3D printing technologies for more than 25 years. Many areas already enjoy the benefits of additively-manufactured components. Classic examples of additive manufacturing are areas where customised and, in some cases, highly complex components are required in small quantities – mainly in pre-development, vehicle validation and testing or for concept and show cars, but also small series production. In this way, the company is constantly working to harness new additive methods for vehicles from prototypes to classic cars. However, the methods are also utilised in tool-making and manufacturing equipment. The BMW Group celebrated the first successful use of this technology in small-series production in 2010, with the additively-manufactured water pump wheel still fitted in DTM vehicles to this day.

The Additive Manufacturing Centre team at the FIZ handles nearly 25,000 prototype orders annually and delivers more than 100,000 components per year to customers within the BMW Group. The spectrum ranges from small plastic holders to design samples to metal chassis components for functional testing. Depending on the process used and size of the parts, components are often available within just a few days.

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Topics: bmw, luxury car



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