3D printing is becoming increasingly popular in the automotive industry. OEMs mainly use this technology for smaller and less important details, while some aftermarket companies are more inventive and use it to make aerodynamic components for supercars.
One of the main advantages of this process is the lower weight of the 3D printed part compared to a conventionally manufactured equivalent. This is another reason why Volkswagen is investing in 3D printing technology and plans to produce up to 100,000 components per year using 3D printing at the Wolfsburg parent plant.
After the German automobile manufacturer has “poured in the mid double-digit million euro amount” over the past five years, it has already produced its first 3D-printed components in Wolfsburg, which were sent to the Osnabrück plant for certification. VW manufactured components for the A-pillar of the T-Roc Cabriolet that are almost 50 percent lighter than conventional components made of sheet steel.
Volkswagen has developed an advancement in 3D printing technology known as binder jetting. Compared to conventional 3D printing, in which a component is built up layer by layer with a laser, an adhesive is used in the binder jetting process, which, according to Volkswagen, leads to lighter and more cost-effective components. In order to develop this technology, Volkswagen is cooperating with Siemens on the software side and with HP, with which it is already cooperating.
In general, Volkswagen has been using various forms of 3D printing for more than 25 years. Currently, 13 units in the Wolfsburg plant produce both plastic and metal components using various printing processes. Later this summer, the automaker will work with HP and Siemens to set up a joint team of experts to train employees on how to use the technology.