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Volkswagen & HP Partner on Novel 3D Printing Process for Vehicle Production

Volkswagen is pressing ahead with the use of innovative 3D printers in car
production. For the first time, the newest process – known as binder jetting
– is being used to manufacture components at the company’s main plant in
Wolfsburg, Germany. Whereas conventional 3D printing uses a laser to build a
component layer by layer from metallic powder, the binder jetting process
uses an adhesive. The resulting metallic component is then heated and
shaped. Using the binder jetting component reduces costs and increases
productivity – for example, the components weigh only half as much as those
made from sheet steel. Volkswagen is currently the only car maker using this
3D printing technology in the production process. “Despite the ongoing
challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re continuing to work on
innovation,” says Christian Vollmer, member of the Board of Management of
the Volkswagen Brand responsible for Production and Logistics. “Together
with our partners, we aim to make 3D printing even more efficient in the
years ahead and suitable for production-line use.”

Cedrik Neike, member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG and CEO Digital
Industries: “We are very proud to support Volkswagen with our innovative 3D
printing solutions. Our automation and software solutions are leading in
industrial production applications. Using this technology, Volkswagen will
be able to develop and produce components faster, more flexibly and using
fewer resources.”

To achieve this innovative advance, Volkswagen has invested an amount in the
mid-double-digit million euro range over the past five years. In addition,
the company has entered into a software partnership with Siemens and
expanded its existing collaboration with printer manufacturer HP Inc. With
the first full-scale use of binder jetting, they intend to acquire important
experience and learn, for example, which components can be produced
economically and quickly in the future or how additive manufacturing can
support the digital transformation of production at Volkswagen.

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 optimizing 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.

From summer, the three companies intend to establish a joint expert team at
the high-tech 3D printing center which opened in Wolfsburg at the end of
2018 and enables the manufacture of complex automotive components using 3D
printing. The center 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 percent less than
conventional components made from sheet steel. This reduction alone makes
the process especially interesting for automotive production applications.
Volkswagen 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.

More than one million components printed in 25 years

Volkswagen has been using 3D printing for 25 years, starting in Technical
Development with the goal of accelerating vehicle development and reducing
costs. Today, there are 13 units at the Wolfsburg plant using various
printing processes to manufacture both plastic and metal components. Typical
examples are plastic components for prototypes such as center consoles, door
cladding, instrument panels and bumpers. Printed metal components include
intake manifolds, radiators, brackets and support elements. Over the past 25
years, more than one million components have been produced.

Volkswagen’s collaboration with Siemens is part of a comprehensive strategic
partnership in the field of digital production platforms. Volkswagen Board
of Management member Vollmer: “I’m pleased that we have a strong and
innovative partner in Siemens so we can start working on the car production
processes of the future. The example of 3D printing shows that this
transformation harbors many diverse opportunities for innovation.”

Thu. December 9th, 2021

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