The BMW Group has officially opened its new Additive Manufacturing Campus in Munich, Germany. The new centre, which began development in April 2018, is said to bring together the production of metal and plastic prototype and series parts under one roof, as well as research into new AM technologies, and associate training for the global rollout of toolless production.
The campus is the result of an investment of €15 million and is expected to allow the BMW Group to develop its position as technology leader in the utilisation of Additive Manufacturing in the automotive industry. In 2019, BMW produced about 300,000 parts by AM. The new AM Campus currently employs up to eighty associates and operates about fifty industrial AM machines that work with metals and plastics.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Milan Nedeljković, BMW AG Board Member for Production, stated, “Additive Manufacturing is already an integral part of our worldwide production system today, and established in our digitalisation strategy. In the future, new technologies of this kind will shorten production times even further and allow us to benefit even more fully from the potential of toolless manufacturing.”
“Our goal is to industrialise 3D printing methods more and more for automotive production, and to implement new automation concepts in the process chain,” added Daniel Schäfer, Senior Vice President for Production Integration and Pilot Plant at the BMW Group. “This will allow us to streamline component manufacturing for series production and speed up development.”
“At the same time, we are collaborating with vehicle development, component production, purchasing and the supplier network,” he continued, “as well as various other areas of the company to systematically integrate the technology and utilise it effectively.”
Cooperating with the AM industry to drive development
The advancement of AM at BMW has been the result of many years of in-house expertise and cooperations to advance the technology. Jens Ertel, Director of the Additive Manufacturing Campus, explained, “Over the last thirty years or so, the BMW Group has developed comprehensive skills, which we’ll continue to enhance on our new campus, which has the latest machines and technologies.”
“In addition, we develop and design components that are faster to produce than by conventional means, offer flexibility in terms of their form, and are also more functional,” Ertel continued. “We are working hard to mature Additive Manufacturing fully and benefit from it as far as possible throughout the product life-cycle, from the first vehicle concept through to production, aftersales and its use in classic vehicles.”
Access to the latest technologies is reportedly gained through long-standing partnerships with leading manufacturers and universities, and by scouting for industry newcomers. In 2017, The BMW Group became involved with Desktop Metal’s sinter-based metal AM technologies, and continues to collaborate closely with the company.
In the same year, BMW I Ventures – the group’s venture capital division – invested in the US start-up Xometry, a platform for on-demand manufacturing, including advanced technologies such as AM.
Its latest investment was in the German start-up ELISE, which allows engineers to produce ‘component DNA’ containing all the technical requirements for the part, from load requirements and manufacturing restrictions to costs and potential optimisation parameters. ELISE then uses this data, along with established development tools, to automatically generate optimised components.
Additive Manufacturing in research and pre-development at BMW Group
The pre-development unit of the Additive Manufacturing Campus optimises new technologies and materials for comprehensive use across the company. The main focus is on automating process chains that have previously required large amounts of manual work, to make AM more economical and viable for use on an industrial scale over the longer term.
For the development of AM processes for use on an industrial scale, research projects are especially important. BMW is involved in several of these projects, such as the Industrialisation and Digitisation of Additive Manufacturing for Automotive Series Production (IDAM) project, supported by the German Ministry of Education and Research.
With IDAM, the BMW Group and its twelve project partners hope to pave the way for the integration of AM into series production environments within the automotive industry. At the Additive Manufacturing Campus, a production line is being set up that replicates the entire process chain, from the preparation of digital production through to manufacture and reworking of components.
The IDAM team is now preparing it for the specific requirements of series, individual and spare-part production. According to the group, production targets confirm the status of this collaborative undertaking as a lighthouse project: output is expected to total at least 50,000 series components a year, with over 10,000 individual and spare parts, all produced to a very high quality.
Applications in series production
The BMW Group first began its Additive Manufacturing of prototype parts in 1991, for concept vehicles. By 2010, both metal Additive Manufacturing and plastic AM processes were being rolled out across the group, initially in smaller series, to produce items such as the additively manufactured water pump wheel in DTM race cars.
Further series production applications followed from 2012 onward, with a range of components for the Rolls-Royce Phantom, BMW i8 Roadster (2017) and MINI John Cooper Works GP (2020), which contains four AM components as standard.