Published on November 18th, 2015 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
25 years of 3D printing at the BMW Group
The BMW Group is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the introduction of additive manufacturing at the company these days. The additive manufacturing methods, which are becoming more well known under the collective term of ‘3D printing’, are among the key production methods of the future. Dr. Udo Haenle, Head of Production Strategy, Technical Integration and Pilot Plant: “The targeted use of innovative additive procedures at an early stage has made us one of the pioneers and leaders in 3D printing over the past years. At the BMW Group Technology Office in Mountain View, Silicon Valley/USA, we are now even conducting a first test run with the new CLIP (Continuous Liquid Interface Production) technology.” As a beamer is used for the exposure of the surfaces, CLIP is considerably faster than previous methods.
As early as 1990, the BMW Group’s Rapid Technologies Center commissioned the development of the first facilities and from 1991 on, the first prototype parts were produced on the company’s own stereolithography machine. In the beginning, the additively produced parts were mostly used for concept cars but developed further for additional purposes over the years. Depending on the component specifications, the BMW Group applies different procedures and materials.
Today, additive manufacturing methods are most commonly applied in areas that frequently require small batches of customized and sometimes also very complex components, such as pre-development, vehicle validation and testing, and concept cars. But also toolmaking, or operating resources are main application areas. A particular highlight for the technologies are completely new vehicles, such as the BMW i models, which come without predecessors. So initial prototypes need to be produced in large part with additive methods.
Besides using additive manufacturing for trendsetting new vehicles, an especially charming area of application for the technology is in BMW classic cars. Especially when it comes to very old collector’s vehicles, a component might be scanned three-dimensional in order to generate a digital data set. Thanks to this reverse engineering method, it is possible to generate previously unavailable components for the spare parts production.