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BMW making water pump wheel for DTM racecars and Z4 GT3s using 3D printing; ideal for small batch production

BMW is making water pump wheels for its racers for German Touring Car Masters (DTM) and Z4 GT3 customer cars using additive manufacturing (3D printing); 500 3D-printed water pump wheels are currently in use. The high-precision component, which is subject to high stresses, consists of an aluminum alloy; the component works flawlessly, the company said.

High-performance powertrains run up to 70% of the time under full load; thus, the moving parts in particular have to handle extreme conditions. In 2010, the BMW engineering team developed a one-piece, light-metal water pump wheel to replace the previously applied series plastic part. Based on BMW’s long-standing experience in additive production methods, the engineers decided from the outset to apply the SLM (selective laser melting) procedure in the production of the small series.

In this laser-fusing procedure, the component is created in a generative layering process: The 3D printer applies 0.05-millimeter thin layers of the metal powder coat to a processing plate. A laser beam then fuses the powder at the desired spots under an inert atmosphere to form a durable aluminum layer. This is how, layer by layer, the three-dimensional component takes shape.

Water pump wheel made on a 3D printer for German Touring Car Masters (DTM) and Z4 GT3. Click to enlarge.

Compared to 3D print methods in the consumer industries, which use plastic filaments, the additive production of metal parts requires considerably greater expertise in process engineering.

3D printing as a production method has turned out to be an ideal procedure for small batches. First, it allows for the inclusion of design refinements in the six-bladed centrifugal pump wheel, the implementation of which would require much greater effort with other production methods. With the new method, it was possible to achieve ideal aerodynamics of the component for the DTM race series.

Second, no complex tools or molds are needed, which makes the demand-oriented production more cost-effective.

On top of that, 3D printing ensures the dimensional accuracy of the water pump wheel over the entire production time.



A few more 3D additive machines running 24/7 could mass produce many high precision parts for the e-car industry, including future FCs and batteries?

Thomas Pedersen

The large GE jet engines feature Ti-Al (titanium aluminide) alloy turbine blades for the last un-cooled blade rows. They are much lighter than nickel-based blades.

There is a factory in Italy that produces these blades and it is basically an array of identical SLM machines just churning out near-finished blades one by one.

Material consumption is only roughly 130% of final product weight, versus several hundred % for conventional methods.

In this article they make a big deal out of mentioning that it is much harder than consumer 3D printing. I believe that but I also believe that this process can and will be fully automated and in the future we will see more an more components being manufactured like this.

There could be components even in consumer cars that could benefit in lower weight or higher performance/efficiency from '3D printing' rather than stamping out of sheet metal.

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