German automotive manufacturer Volkswagen AG has reported it is now using Binder Jetting (BJT) Additive Manufacturing technology at the company’s main plant in Wolfsburg, with the aim of producing up to 100,000 AM components a year by 2025. The company has been using AM for some twenty-five years, producing over one million components with various plastic and metal AM processes, but this marks the company’s first use of binder jet technology for production parts.
The first parts made using the BJT process, components for the A pillar of the T-Roc convertible, have been sent to VW’s facility in Osnabrück for certification. These weigh almost 50% less than conventional components made from sheet steel, with this weight reduction alone said to make the process especially interesting for automotive production applications.
Until now the production of larger volumes has not proven cost-effective, however, VW has worked closely with Siemens to develop software that maximises the number of components in the build chamber. Known as nesting, this technique makes it possible to now produce twice as many parts per manufacture session.
“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,” stated Cedrik Neike, member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG and CEO Digital Industries.
To reach this stage, Volkswagen has invested an amount in the mid-double-digit million euro range over the past five years. In addition to the software partnership with Siemens, it has expanded its existing collaboration with AM machine maker HP Inc. With its first full-scale use of BJT, the company is looking to understand which components can be produced economically and quickly, and how Additive Manufacturing can support the digital transformation of production at Volkswagen.
“Despite the ongoing challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re continuing to work on innovation,” commented 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.”
From summer 2021, the three companies intend to establish a joint expert team at VW’s advanced Additive Manufacturing centre. The centre was opened in Wolfsburg at the end of 2018 for the development of complex automotive components using AM, and is also used to train employees in the use of the technology.