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8th June 2018, Ingolstadt, Germany

3D printing in 500,000 colour combinations at Audi

Audi is installing Stratasys J750 full-colour, multi-material 3D printer at its Pre-Series Centre in Ingolstadt, Germany, in order to enhance its design process and accelerate verification. For the production of tail light covers, Audi expects to reduce prototyping lead times by up to 50%.

Before a new vehicle goes into production, the Audi Pre-Series Centre in Ingolstadt builds physical models and prototypes for the brand to evaluate new designs and concepts thoroughly. 

Fitting an Audi tail light cover. (c) Audi.

This requires allocation of most parts of the vehicle in an early stage of product development – everything from wheel covers and door handles to radiator grills. Traditional methods, such as moulding and milling, are commonly used to create and replicate new designs. However, the use of 3D printing has become an integral part of the automotive design process at the centre, enabling the team to overcome the limitations of conventional processes and accelerate design verification.

In the case of tail light covers, the team traditionally used milling or moulding to produce individual parts. The main challenge with these production techniques are the multi-coloured covers of the tail light housing. These individual colour parts must be assembled because they cannot be produced in one-piece. This time-intensive process increases lead times for design verification and subsequently delays time-to-market.

3D printed Audi tail light parts. (c) Audi.

The Stratasys J750 will enable the production of entirely transparent, multi-coloured tail light covers in a single print, eliminating the need for the previous multi-step process. With over 500,000 colour combinations available, the team can 3D print transparent parts in multiple colours and textures that meet the stringent requirements of the Audi design approval process.

“Design is one of the most important buying decisions for Audi customers and it’s crucial we adhere to supreme quality standards during the design and concept phase of vehicle development,” sais Dr Tim Spiering, Head of the Audi Plastics 3D Printing Centre. “As a result, we need prototypes to have exact part geometries, no distortion and extremely high quality, as well as true-to-part colour and transparency. The Stratasys J750 3D printer will offer us a significant advantage, as it allows us to print the exact textures and colours our design defines. This is essential for getting design concepts approved for production. In terms of 3D printing transparent parts, I have not seen a comparable technology that meets our standards.”

Dr Spiering and his 24-member team are responsible for providing all plastics 3D printing expertise, advice and production at Audi. Having invested in its first Stratasys FDM 3D printer in 2002, the division has since grown its portfolio to ten polymer 3D printers, including a range of Stratasys FDM and PolyJet 3D printers.

 “Audi is a prime example of how our unique full color, multi-material 3D printing technology can combine several design processes into one, rapidly accelerating development cycles,” said Stratasys EMEA president Andy Middleton. “If you extend the time-savings achieved by Audi on the tail lights to other parts of the vehicle, the overall impact on time-to-market can be huge.”

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