Munich — BMW AG is building up its additive manufacturing capabilities, investing 15 million euros ($16.8 million) to develop systems that will integrate 3D printing into mainstream production.
The money is going into BMW's new Additive Manufacturing Campus, equipped with machines, technology, prototype development and production capabilities under one roof. The German automaker is aiming to industrialize 3D printing methods that will streamline operations and speed up the use of new developments in full production.
"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," Jens Ertel, director of the Additive Manufacturing Campus, said.
BMW first started additive manufacturing for concept cars in 1991. In 2019, it produced about 300,00 parts using additive manufacturing. The new campus employs 80 and operates 50 systems using both metal and plastics.
In addition to its own work, BMW says it has developed partnerships with companies such as 3D printing specialist Carbon, Xometry for on-demand manufacturing and German start-up Elise, which is based on optimized development and manufacturing operations.
The pre-development unit of the campus uses new technology to promote autonomous production systems in place of projects that require large amounts of manual labor, BMW said in a news release.
When it comes to developing 3D printing processes for use on an industrial scale, research projects are especially important. BMW currently has two such projects running, both funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research.
The campus is also making a significant contribution to series production of plastic parts, the Munich-based automaker said. In the Polyline project, the focus is on aspects such as digitally linking process steps, and the development of a consistent quality assurance methodology for the entire process chain.
The campus also will provide the backdrop for the project's consortium of 15 partners to develop and test a "future-proof, fully linked, automated production line" for plastic components. Findings from the project are expected to help reduce manufacturing costs by as much as 50 percent, making a vital contribution to series production.