3D printing is becoming increasingly popular in the automotive industry. OEMs use this technology mainly for smaller and less important details while some aftermarket companies are more inventive and use it to produce aerodynamic components for supercars.
Some of the main advantages of this process include the reduced weight of the 3D printed part compared to a conventionally produced equivalent. This is one of the reasons why Volkswagen is investing in 3D printing technology and aims to produce up to 100,000 components by 3D printing annually at its main plant in Wolfsburg.
After pouring in “the mid-double-digit million euro range over the past five years,” the German automaker has already produced its first 3D printed components in Wolfsburg which were sent to the company’s Osnabrück facility for certification. VW made components for the A-pillar of the T-Roc Convertible which are almost 50 percent lighter than conventional components made from sheet steel.
Volkswagen developed an evolution of the 3D printing tech which it calls binder jetting. Compared to conventional 3D printing, which uses a laser to build a component layer by layer, the binder jetting process uses an adhesive, which, Volkswagen says, results in lighter and cheaper to produce components. To develop this technology, Volkswagen is partnering with Siemens on the software side of things, as well as with HP with which it has an existing collaboration.
In general, Volkswagen says it has been using different forms of 3D printing for more than 25 years. Currently, 13 units at the Wolfsburg plant use various printing processes to manufacture both plastic and metal components. Later this summer, the automaker will establish a joint expert team together with HP and Siemens to train employees how to use the tech.