Volkswagen recently announced that it will be using 3D printing technology for automotive production. Together with printer manufacturer HP and component manufacturer GKN Powder Metallurgy, Volkswagen is developing the new HP Metal Jet process to simplify and speed up metallic 3D printing.
Previous 3D printing processes could only be used for the special production of individual parts or prototypes. The additive 3D Metal Jet technology enables the production of a large number of parts without having to develop and manufacture the corresponding tools. This significantly reduces the time required to manufacture parts. As a result, the process is also being considered for the production of large quantities in a short period of time.
"A complete vehicle will probably not be manufactured by a 3D printer any time soon, but the number and size of parts from the 3D printer will increase significantly," explained Dr. Martin Goede, Volkswagen's head of technology planning and development. "Our goal is to integrate printed structural parts into the next generation of vehicles as quickly as possible. In the long term, we expect a continuous increase in unit numbers, part sizes and technical requirements – right up to soccer-size parts of over 100,000 units per year."
As early as next year, GKN Powder Metallurgy intends to establish a process chain geared toward automotive production in collaboration with Volkswagen. The first small (design) components are to be used to further develop the technology so that the first structural components for mass-production vehicles can be printed within two to three years.
"Volkswagen is driving unprecedented innovation as the automotive industry goes through its most transformational era since cars first rolled off the assembly line," said Stephen Nigro, president of 3D printing at HP Inc. "We're proud to collaborate with Volkswagen to identify opportunities for production based on HP's new Metal Jet 3D printing platform."
For more information, visit www.vw.com.