Augsburg/Varel, Krailling, Stuttgart, 30. April 2019 – What began as a promising vision in May 2017 has now reached a successful conclusion: the project "NextGenAM" for the development of a pilot production line for a next-generation automated "Additive Manufacturing" process by the partners Premium AEROTEC, EOS and Daimler.
The 3D printing process, also known as "Additive Manufacturing" (AM), has become more and more interesting as a complementary or alternative process to conventional manufacturing techniques. The technology is described as "additive" because of the way in which the process involves the application of layer after layer of thin material, which is then hardened by an energy source. Along with plastics and ceramics, it is also possible to produce metal components in a 3D printing process.
The aim of the pilot project was to develop a digitalised next-generation manufacturing line which would be able to produce aluminium components for the automotive and aerospace sectors significantly more cost-effectively than is currently possible. The successful outcome of NextGenAM: in terms of the overall production process at Premium AEROTEC, manufacturing costs could be reduced by up to 50 percent compared with existing 3D printing systems.
As far as the aircraft industry is concerned, Premium AEROTEC is today already an international pioneer in the field of metallic 3D printing. The aim now is to build further on this expertise and to bring it to bear in other sectors as well. The successful conclusion of NextGenAM thus represents another important building block in our strategy."
We are very proud of what we have been able to achieve in collaboration with our partners Premium AEROTEC and Daimler. The NextGenAM project has provided a very tangible demonstration of how industrial 3D printing can be used cost-effectively in series production as part of an automated process chain. In combination with the possibilities for digitalisation as used here, the pilot plant represents nothing less than a milestone along the way to digital manufacturing."
Additive Manufacturing is also suitable for smallest-series production of new vehicles (limited editions). Systematic development of the parts specifically for 3D printing means that the production costs can be further reduced and the quality optimised. 3D printing also makes particular sense during the advance development of vehicles. The low numbers required can often be produced more cost-effectively, and faster, with Additive Manufacturing than with conventional production processes."
And this applies just as much for vehicles with a combustion engine as for electric cars. 3D printing is also eminently suitable, for instance, for the production of the integrated base plates that carry the cooling lines for the batteries in electric vehicles..
Now that all the quality checks so far have been passed with such promising results, preparations are under way for an audit according to the requirements of the stringent industry standard VDA 6.3. This is one of the prerequisites at Daimler for the supply of series-production components by contract printing suppliers. The automation of the entire AM production chain will in future make it possible to manufacture larger batches in series production – with the same reliability, functionality, durability and economic efficiency as conventionally manufactured components. Components for new vehicles can be optimised for 3D printing during the design phase, bringing the promise of further advantages in terms of cost. 3D printing also delivers weight benefits, which are of particular interest for electric vehicles. When it comes to replacement parts, 3D brings the advantage, going forward, of saving warehousing costs – because parts can instead be produced "on demand". This vision for the future is also known at Daimler as "Digital Stock", in other words the centralised availability of digital manufacturing data to allow the decentralised production of replacement parts using 3D printing.
As you can see, 3D printing is well on the way to becoming further established within the automotive and aerospace sectors as an additional, very versatile and comparatively young production method.