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13th November 2018, Munich

A million components for BMW

Over the last decade, BMW has produced a million 3D-printed components and this year output from the BMW Group Additive Manufacturing Centre is expected to reach over 200,000 components — a 42% increase on last year’s total.

 “The use of components made by additive manufacturing in series production of vehicles is increasing particularly strongly at the moment,” said Dr Jens Ertel, director of the centre. “We are following the development and application of these advanced manufacturing methods very closely indeed, partly through longstanding co-operations with leading manufacturers in the field. At the same time, we are engaging in targeted technology scouting and evaluating innovative production systems.”

Over the last decade, BMW has produced a million 3D-printed components. © BMW Group

Recently the BMW Group fitted its one-millionth 3D-printed component in series production – a window guide rail for the BMW i8 Roadster. The rail took just five days to develop and was integrated into series production in Leipzig shortly afterwards. It is found in the door of the BMW i8 Roadster and allows the window to operate smoothly. The component is manufactured by HP Multi Jet Fusion technology, a high-speed method enhanced by the BMW Group in conjunction with HP and now in use in the series production of vehicles for the very first time. It can produce up to 100 window guide rails in 24 hours.

This year output from the BMW Group Additive Manufacturing Centre is expected to reach over 200,000 components. © BMW Group

The window guide rail is the second 3D-printed component in the BMW i8 Roadster. The first was the fixture for the soft-top attachment, which is also produced at the centre in Munich. Made of aluminium alloy, the metal component weighs less than the injection-moulded plastic part that is normally used but is still considerably stiffer. Its importance has already been recognised with an Altair Enlighten Award in the category for Modules this year. The accolade honours lightweight innovations in the field of subsystems and components.

Meanwhile, the personalisation of vehicles and components by customers themselves is also becoming more and more important. With the MINI Yours Customised product initiative, customers can design selected components themselves, such as indicator inlays and dashboard trim strips. They create their designs at the online shop and the parts are then 3D-printed to specification.

Recently the BMW Group fitted its one-millionth 3D-printed component in series production. © BMW Group

For the BMW Group, additive manufacturing will be a key future production method. The company first began using plastic and metal-based processes back in 2010, initially for the production of smaller series of components, such as the water pump pulley for DTM vehicles. Further series applications followed in 2012, with various laser-sintered parts for the Rolls-Royce Phantom. Since last year, the fixtures for fibre optic guides in the Rolls-Royce Dawn have also been 3D printed, and the luxury brand today incorporates a total of ten 3 -printed components into its products.

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