The Volkswagen brand’s Toolmaking unit is adding a 3-D printing center to its facilities in Wolfsburg. With the opening of the center, the unit is bringing the most highly advanced generation of 3-D printers to the Volkswagen Group, which will allow the production of complex vehicle parts in the future.
In addition, with the new center, Toolmaking is implementing a key point of the pact for the future concluded in 2016 and expanding its production competences with subsidies from the Innovation Fund II.
The 3-D printing center takes Volkswagen’s additive manufacturing activities to a new level. In two to three years’ time, three-dimensional printing will also become interesting for the first production parts. In the future, we may be able to use 3-D printers directly on the production line for vehicle production.—Dr. Andreas Tostmann, Board Member for Production of the Volkswagen brand
The new generation of 3-D printers developed in cooperation with HP is the most modern within the Volkswagen Group and is based on the binder jetting process, which supplements the previous selective laser melting (SLM) process.
In September 2018, HP launched HP Metal Jet for the high volume manufacturing of production-grade metal parts. Providing up to 50 times more productivity at a significantly lower cost than other 3D printing methods, HP Metal Jet is being deployed by manufacturing leaders GKN Powder Metallurgy and Parmatech for the factory production of final parts. Customers placing orders included Volkswagen and Wilo.
HP Metal Jet is a voxel-level binder jetting technology leveraging more than 30 years of HP printhead and advanced chemistries innovation. With a bed size of 430 x 320 x 200mm, 4x the nozzle redundancy and 2x the printbars, and significantly less binder by weight, HP Metal Jet delivers greater productivity and reliability at a low acquisition and operational cost compared to other metals 3D printing solutions. HP Metal Jet will start with stainless steel finished parts, delivering isotropic properties that meet or exceed ASTM and MPIF Standards.
HP is partnering with GKN Powder Metallurgy to deploy HP Metal Jet in their factories to produce functional metal parts for auto and industrial leaders including Volkswagen.
To date, the Volkswagen Group has mainly used the SLM process for 3-D printing with metals. In this process, the material used, such as steel, is applied to a base plate in a thin layer. A laser beam then melts the powder at the points where the component is to be created. The molten powder hardens, forming a solid material layer. The new printers at the center will now allow the use of other 3-D printing processes such as binder jetting.
Binder jetting not only makes metallic 3-D printing considerably easier but also faster. In future, it will be possible to manufacture production parts in addition to prototypes.
In this additive process, components are manufactured using a metal powder and a binder applied in layers. The metal part which has been printed is then “baked” in a sintering process. In future, the various processes, which each have specific applications, will supplement each other in an ideal way.
At the 3-D printing center, which has a floor space of 3,100 m², toolmakers, planners and research team members cooperate closely on the development of new products and processes. Within the framework of the pact for the future, a new additive manufacturing unit providing 11 future-oriented jobs has been established.