BMW Reaches New Milestone – a Million 3D Printed Components in Ten Years
Over at BMW, the use of 3D-printed components is on the rise. During the last decade alone, the German manufacturer says it has produced a million parts using this method, and this year output from the BMW Group Additive Manufacturing Center is expected to reach over 200,000 components — a 42 per cent increase on last year’s total.
“The use of components made by additive manufacturing in series production of vehicles is increasing particularly strongly at the moment. We are following the development and application of advanced these manufacturing methods very closely indeed, partly through longstanding cooperations with leading manufacturers in the field. At the same time, we are engaging in targeted technology scouting and evaluating innovative production systems,” says Jens Ertel, director at the BMW Group Additive Manufacturing Center.
Recently the company fitted its one-millionth 3D-printed component in series production: a window guide rail for the i8 Roadster (see the video below).
BMW engineers claim the rail took just five days to develop and was integrated into series production in Leipzig shortly after. It is found in the door and allows the window to operate smoothly. The component is manufactured using a special HP printer that is said to be able to produce up to 100 window guide rails in 24 hours.
Installation of 3D-printed window guide rail for the BMW i8 Roadster
However, the window guide rail is not the first component to be 3D-printed for fitment inside the i8 Roadster; the first was the fixture for the soft-top attachment, which is also produced at the Additive Manufacturing Center in Munich. Made of aluminium alloy, the 3D-printed metal component weighs less than the injection-moulded plastic part that is normally used but is still considerably stiffer.
Meanwhile, the personalisation of vehicles and components by customers themselves is also becoming more and more important, according to BMW.
For example, for its MINI brand, it recently introduced the ‘MINI Yours Customised’ service, whereby customers can design selected components themselves, such as indicator inlays and dashboard trim strips. They create their designs at the online shop, and the parts are then 3D-printed to specification.
BMW is confident that additive manufacturing will become a key future production method. The company first began using plastic and metal-based processes back in 2010, initially for the production of smaller series of components, such as the water pump pulley for its DTM racing cars.
Further series applications followed in 2012, with various laser-sintered parts for the Rolls-Royce Phantom. Since last year, the fixtures for fibre optic guides in the Rolls-Royce Dawn have also been 3D-printed, and the luxury brand today incorporates a total of ten 3D-printed components into its products.
In April of this year, BMW further announced plans to invest over €10 million in an all-new 3D printing centre to be located in Oberschleissheim.