Volkswagen has recently announced plans to implement
pay-per-use car technology, and they’ve been working on other new ways to save money on auto manufacturing. Autoweek reported that VW is hoping to use 3D printers to make metal car parts.
This isn’t the first time 3D printing has been implemented for car manufacturing, but it seemed that this was limited to plastic parts. As 3D printers become more affordable, they could help automakers save a lot of costs on car manufacturing.
What does the 3D printing process look like for metal car parts, and how else is this method beneficial for automakers?
Which car parts will VW create using 3D printing?
As mentioned by
Autoweek, VW hopes to print 100,000 parts each year at its Wolfsburg plant by 2025. VW has partnered with HP and Siemens for the software to print metal car parts. Metal parts that might potentially be printed include intake manifolds, radiators, brackets, and support elements.
The 3D printing method for metal parts involves a "binder jetting process". The printhead will deposit a liquid adhesive over a layer of metal powder. The adhesive solidifies and another layer of power is added over it. This works with materials like sand, composites, ceramics or metals.
The first part made using this process is the A pillar of the VW T-Roc convertible, which supports the roof on either side of the car’s windshield. These are being tested at the Osnabrück plant.
3D printing isn’t new in auto manufacturing
Design studios and schools have been using 3D printing since the ‘90s to create different parts using the help of computers, according to Autoweek. However, it’s rare to find a design that doesn’t rely on a computer.
VW said that 13 units at the Wolfsburg plant use various printing processes to build plastic and metal parts. Over the past 25 years, more than 1 million parts have been produced. Private printer owners have printed rare plastic parts that they couldn’t find for their old car.
How is 3D printing car parts beneficial for companies like Volkswagen?
Not only can 3D printing be a cost-effective manufacturing solution for automakers, the method is also faster than using laser and powder. Printing using sheet steel instead of laser and powder makes the part weigh half as much. The parts end up a lot lighter.
3D printing also allows manufacturers to produce different parts in the same plant by loading a different program on the computer. VW and other automakers who successfully adopt 3D printing for producing their car parts will be able to improve the efficiency of their plants.
These cost-savings on production can potentially trickle down to consumers. As
electric vehiclesand other new car technology develops, automakers are exploring different production methods to make sure vehicles are still affordable for consumers.
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