3D Printed Car Parts: Porsche Introduce 3D Printed Pistons for GT2 RS

German sports car manufacturer Porsche has been using 3D printing for several years in a variety of applications. For instance, it’s fabricated prototypes with the technology, along with using it to make steel, plastic, and alloy spare parts, such as a clutch release lever for the Porsche 959, that hadn’t been previously available. In spring 2020, the manufacturer introduced a bodyform full bucket seat featuring cushion and backrest surfaces that are partially 3D printed. While it wasn’t considered a production part at the time, the seats, which allow customers to select one of three firmness levels (soft, medium, or hard), are now available for the Porsche model series 911 and 718.

3D printed pistons for the high-performance engine of the 911 GT2 RS

The technology is interesting in both economic and technical terms for Porsche in its motorsports, special, and small series vehicles, and the manufacturer clearly recognizes the potential of 3D printing for giving its customers innovative and customized products. Now, it is increasing the efficiency and power of the high-performance engine pistons for its 911 flagship model, the GT2 RS, by cooperating with two important industry partners to 3D print these high-stress drive components.

Porsche took on this joint project with MAHLE, an international development partner and supplier to the automotive industry, and German family-owned company TRUMPF, which offers both laser metal fusion (LMF) and laser metal deposition (LMD) AM technology. In this case, LMF technology was used to print the pistons out of high-purity metal powder, which MAHLE identified as an aluminum alloy, and the pistons now feature a structure that’s been optimized for the high-stress loads acting on the pistons while driving.

Laser metal fusion (LMF) technology

MAHLE explained that bionic design, which only adds material in loaded areas, was used to develop the pistons for the GT2 RS. This technique allowed the partners to waste less material, and make the 3D printed pistons more rigid, and up to 20% more lightweight, than the traditional forged series production pistons.

“This project involved multiple challenges. From the design of the piston through the specification of the material and the development of the appropriate printing parameters, we had to make many fine adjustments to achieve the optimum result. We have now not only mastered the technical side of things, but can also assess how the method can be embedded into existing manufacturing processes,” said Volker Schall, Head of Product Design in Advanced Engineering at MAHLE.

These new pistons also feature an integrated, closed cooling duct, with a special shape, near the piston crown, which would not have been possible to make with traditional manufacturing technologies. The design of the cooling gallery was based on MAHLE’s work with piston thermal processes, and the duct actually optimizes combustion by lowering the temperature load at this part of the piston, which undergoes significant stresses.

Additionally, an extra 3D printed charge air cooler, which optimizes flow control and cooling, was added to an air pipe between the turbo and original cooler. This ensures a much larger heat transfer, lower fuel consumption, and more efficient engine performance.

“Thanks to the new, lighter pistons, we can increase the engine speed, lower the temperature load on the pistons and optimise combustion. This makes it possible to get up to 30 PS more power from the 700 PS biturbo engine, while at the same time improving efficiency,” explained Frank Ickinger, Project Manager, from the advance drive development department at Porsche.

The piston blanks were analyzed at MAHLE, and engineers paid plenty of attention to the piston skirt and the pin bore, which is where it’s connected with the conrod. Then, the components underwent 200 hours of endurance testing to determine performance capability and quality using measurement technology from Zeiss. The results found that the 3D printed piston offers the same high quality as pistons made with conventional manufacturing.

“The project illustrates how 3D printing can be used to further improve components whose performance potential has already been exhausted by decades of development,” stated Steffen Rübling, Project Manager at TRUMPF. “This will benefit many other industries, such as aerospace and energy.”

(Images courtesy of Porsche AG)

 

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3D Printing News Briefs: December 3, 2019

We’re starting today’s 3D Printing News Briefs out with a new case study, and then concluding with some business. CRP USA has been working with additive manufacturing in the motorsports sector. Moving on, Gardner Aerospace has acquired FDM Digital Solutions Ltd. Finally, the Head of Engineering at Formlabs is joining up with Digital Alloys.

CRP USA AM in Motorsports Case Study

3D printed oil pan in Windform SP, University of Victoria’s Formula SAE race car 2019 version

The University of Victoria (UVic) Formula Motorsport team has been using 3D printed oil pans on their SAE competition cars for the last four years that were created with CRP USA‘s laser sintering process, and Windform TOP-LINE composite materials. As a CRP case study details, carbon-composite Windform XT 2.0 was used to print the oil pans for the race vehicles in 2016, 2017, and 2018, and while they performed “amazingly” the first two years, the engine overheated during a test of last year’s car, which caused the temperature of the oil to rise above what the pan could handle.

For this year’s vehicle, the team decided to use the carbon-filled Windform SP composite material to 3D print the oil pan, as it has a higher melting point. They also made the mating flange thicker to lessen the chances of failure, and both of these changes led to a better, more robust oil pan. At next week’s Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show in Indianapolis, CRP USA will be showing off some of the other 3D printed solutions it’s helped create for the motorsports industry at booth 1041 in the Green Hall.

Gardner Aerospace Acquires FDM Digital Solutions

Graeme Bond (FDM) & Dominic Cartwright (Gardner Aerospace)

Global manufacturer Gardner Aerospace announced its acquisition of FDM Digital Solutions Limited, one of the UK’s top polymer additive layer manufacturers. FDM was formed in 2012, and its business model of original design solutions, manufacturing capability, and customer collaboration is successful in the aerospace, automotive, medical, and motorsports industries. The company will now become part of the new Gardner Technology Centre business unit, which is focused on R&D and advanced technology.

“Gardner Aerospace is breaking new ground in terms of technology. The acquisition of FDM and the creation of our new Technology Centre business unit provides us with the perfect opportunity to expand our technical knowledge, R&D capability and product offering, and aligns us with our customers’ growing expectations on innovative solutions, continuous improvement and cost competitiveness,” stated Gardner Aerospace CEO Dominic Cartwright.

“The role of 3D printing within manufacturing is constantly expanding and this newly acquired additive layer manufacturing capability complements Gardner’s long-standing capabilities as a producer of metallic detailed parts and sub-assemblies.”

Formlabs’ Head of Engineering Joins Digital Alloys

Carl Calabria

Carl Calabria, an AM industry veteran and the Head of Engineering at Formlabs, is leaving the company to join Digital Alloys, Inc. as its CTO. The Burlington, Massachusetts-based 3D printing company introduced its unique Joule printing last year, which it claims is the fastest way to make the hardest metal parts, as the wire-feed process doesn’t require any metal powder. By adding Calabria to its team, where he will be responsible for the company’s research and engineering, Digital Alloys can accelerate the release of its high-speed metal AM process.

“Leaving Formlabs was a difficult decision, but I was drawn to the size of Digital Alloys’ market, the team, and the opportunity to use Joule Printing to deliver metal printing solutions that have the speed, cost and quality needed for volume manufacturing of larger parts,” said Calabria. “The remarkable technology is producing titanium and tool steel parts faster, and at lower cost than conventional manufacturing processes.”

Watch this video to see Digital Alloys’ Joule printing process in action:

 

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3D Printing News Briefs: September 21, 2019

We’re talking about an event, some 3D printing education news, and racing applications in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs. Russia’s top 3D printing festival is returning for a second year, 3D Universe is introducing its Educators Exchange Community, and SUNY New Paltz is opening a 3D printing/business incubator. Scheurer Swiss GmbH supplied Toyota Gazoo Racing New Zealand with 3D printed parts, and Cincinnati Inc. is now an official sponsor of Hendrick Motorsports.

3D Today Festival in Russia

Russian 3D printing media outlet 3Dtoday will soon hold 3Dtoday Fest, the country’s top national 3D printing event. The festival premiered last year in St. Petersburg, but is moving to Moscow this time. Top local 3D technology manufacturers and distributors, such as iGo3D Russia and Picaso 3D, will attend the event, and many amateur 3D printer designers will showcase their work as well. Industry professionals and popular 3Dtoday bloggers will speak at the festival, and makers will have the chance to take complimentary workshops on topics ranging from post processing and painting 3D printed models to drawing with a 3D pen.

The goal of 3Dtoday Fest, which is working to expand the reach of 3D printing on a prosumer level, is to unite the community in order to help new and established manufacturers promote their materials and equipment, help beginners enter the world of 3D printing, and give artists and designers a place to display their work to a larger audience. 3Dtoday Fest will take place in Pavilion 5 of Moscow’s Expocentre on November 29 and 30 from 10 am to 6 pm.

3D Universe Introduces Educators Exchange Community

For a teacher who’s long wanted a classroom 3D printer, confusion may set in once the dream becomes a reality – what to have the students do with it now that it’s here? That’s why  3D Universe, a retailer and founding member of the e-NABLE community, has launched its new Educators Exchange community group on Facebook. The page is for educators who want to share their classroom’s digital fabrication projects, which is easy to do with the group’s spreadsheet.

“Our hope is that teachers from all over the world will share their curriculums with each other as open-source resources. We would love to see classrooms create collaborative projects that can connect students from different demographics together in a global 3D Universe Educational Maker Movement!”

Simply request to join, answer a few questions, and agree to the group rules, and then you can start sharing what your students are working on. You can browse the spreadsheet to find open source educational project files and resources, and even find helpful links to websites, articles, and machine-specific tutorials.

SUNY New Paltz Opens New Engineering Innovation Hub

The State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz has just opened its $13.5 million Engineering Innovation Hub (EIH) building, built by Urbahn Architects and general contractor PC Construction. The 19,500 square foot facility, designed to meet LEED Silver environmental and sustainability standards, includes teaching and research lab spaces, the school’s Hudson Valley Additive Manufacturing Center (HVAMC), a popular bachelor’s degree program in mechanical engineering, and 3D print prototyping labs to support the program. It was designed in such a way that an expansion could be supported in the future if necessary.

“The bright, open, 661-square foot entrance lobby is intended as a collaborative space for students,” explained Urbahn Architects’ Construction Administrator Manuel Mateus. “It features cabinets for the display of 3D-printed artifacts. Counters with computer charging and data outlets, lounge-style seating, and whiteboards that allow students to study, work, and collaborate. The lobby also features a textured art wall invoking 3D-printed panels. The flooring consists of textured porcelain ceramic tile and the ceiling is gypsum board. The space features ring-like curvilinear LED ceiling light fixtures.”

3D Printed Toyota Race Car Parts by Scheurer Swiss

Scheurer Swiss GmbH was commissioned to create carbon-reinforced 3D printed engine components for the well-known Castrol Toyota Racing Series (TRS). With the company’s help, Toyota GAZOO Racing New Zealand has created the more powerful Toyota FT-60 for the TRS 2020. The engine can produce 285 hp – far more than its predecessor – and the car itself was tested on the track in Italy this summer. The material was able to stand up under the enormous heat and speed, in addition to the race track’s compressive forces.

“We are planning to go into series production soon with the 3D-printed carbon-reinforced engine components from Scheurer Swiss. We are very satisfied with the advice and service provided by Scheurer Swiss, in particular the flawless and fast delivery of the urgently needed carbon-reinforced components for the Toyota FT-60 test series,” said David Gouk, the owner of David Gouk Race Engines.

The Castrol Toyota Racing Series’ 2020 racing season starts in January at the Highlands Motorsport Park in New Zealand.

Cincinnati Inc. Sponsoring Hendricks Motorsports starting in 2019

In a record 10-year agreement beginning this year, machine tool manufacturer Cincinnati Inc. has joined Hendrick Motorsports – a 12-time NASCAR Cup Series champion – as an official sponsor through the 2028 racing season. The company will be a primary sponsor of Alex Bowman’s No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in the October 6th Cup Series playoff race, in addition to two 2020 events. Cincinnati Inc. is also a full-season associate sponsor of the team’s entire stable for ten years, and was named Hendrick Motorsports’ Official Metal Fabrication and Additive Equipment Provider. Hendrick will use the company’s 3D printing, laser cutting, and press brake machinery to help develop and construct its race car fleet.

“Ten years is quite a statement. It demonstrates how the Cincinnati team feels about NASCAR and the opportunities the sport presents for their business,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “From the perspective of our team, it’s a major endorsement of how fantastic the Cincinnati products are and the confidence we have that the relationship will help provide a competitive advantage on the racetrack. We look forward to a lot of trips to Victory Lane together over the next decade.”

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BMW’s Latest Auto is Customized Through 3D Printing and Contains Pieces of Meteorites

It’s clear outside right now, which is a good sign that we might get a nice view of the Quadrantid meteor shower tonight. While not as famous as other meteor showers such as the Perseids or the Leonids, the Quadrantids are still an intense meteor shower that results from the Earth’s passage through the asteroid 2003 EH1. Tiny fragments of the asteroid will enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up harmlessly, so don’t worry – you won’t come outside to find your yard or car pitted with asteroid chunks. But for those of you who think it’d be really cool to have space rock embedded in your car, BMW has something for you.

The new BMW Individual M850i Night Sky has actual meteorites, which are chunks of rock that don’t burn up in the atmosphere and actually land on Earth, incorporated into its cabin. The center console’s trim plate, the start/stop button, the selector lever and the Touch Controller for the iDrive system are all decorated with the meteoric rock, and inlays made from the material are also incorporated into the door sill finishers, along with an illuminated model badge.

“Expanding on the use of meteoritic material for the controls inside the sports car, the design of many other interior and exterior elements takes its cues from a structure that only occurs in natural form on extra-terrestrial objects: the distinctive Widmanstätten surface pattern of meteorites,” BMW states. “The strictly geometric structure, with its straight lines, has the appearance of ice crystals and becomes visible when certain types of iron meteorite are polished or brought into contact with acidic compounds.”

The structure forms as a result of the metal alloy cooling in an extremely slow process that cannot be reproduced on Earth. The design of many elements on the BMW Individual M850i Night Sky is inspired by the structure, however, including the hand-stitched headliner and the center console’s trim finishers. It has also been milled into the brake discs and 3D printed in several other components, including the exterior mirror caps, the front splitters for the side air intakes at the front of the car, the center mesh plate and the surrounds for the Air Breathers on the front side panels.

Also 3D printed are the innovative bionic-design brakes. When creating the brake calipers, BMW was able to reduce their mass to the minimum required to meet technical requirements, meaning that only the material needed for the brakes to work is used. The resulting construction mimics that of bones, with an optimum balance between component rigidity and weight, and can only be produced using additive manufacturing. The technology also allowed BMW to incorporate the brake fluid channels into the structure of the brake calipers.

The interior leather trim comes in a tri-color design with LED-illuminated star constellations on the center console, for an extra astronomical effect. The Widmanstätten structure is also repeated in the stitching pattern for the seat center sections.

“The exterior paintwork of the BMW Individual M850i Night Sky has a special paint finish which combines two color tones to achieve a high-impact effect. Black non-metallic was used as the base colour for the body,” BMW adds. “A second coat in San Marino Blue metallic was then painted over it in a graduated effect from the bottom edge of the body up to the top of the wheel arches. Finally, three layers of clear coat with varying pigment particle sizes were applied to give the paint finish a remarkable sense of depth.”

All this combines to create a car that is a dream for space enthusiasts. BMW introduced the car today to coincide with the meteor shower, which is a nice promotional touch. While humans may eventually colonize the moon and Mars, this may be the closest any of us end up to being in a spaceship.

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3D Printing an Improved DMLS Automotive Component Using Topology Optimization and DfAM

Engineers frequently use topology optimization to optimize the design and layout of parts to create lightweight and optimized structures. The technology often results in organic, complex shapes, however, which can be difficult to produce using traditional manufacturing methods. That’s why 3D printing pairs so well with topology optimization – it allows for the kind of freedom of design necessary to create those complex shapes. In a paper entitled “Application of Topology Optimization and Design for Additive Manufacturing Guidelines on an Automotive Component,” a group of researchers uses topology optimization to create a lightweight automotive component “while conforming to additive manufacturing constraints related to overhanging features and unsupported surfaces when using metallic materials.”

Specifically, the researchers use Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) along with topology optimization to study the tradeoffs between the weight of the part, support requirements, manufacturing costs, and mechanical performance. They redesign an upright on the SAE Formula student race car to reduce support structures and manufacturing cost while using Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS).

The upright is responsible for transferring loads from the ground to the chassis, and is an important component of the race car. The initial optimized design had a theoretical weight of 1.62 lbs. (735 grams). The model was analyzed for two orientations: flat on the build platform and on its side. A costing tool was used to calculate the overall manufacturing costs of the build. The calculated costs of the part printed flat and on its side were $2015 and $2995, respectively. FEM simulations were carried out to ensure that the mechanical performance of the final parts satisfied the loading conditions.

The researchers then worked to improve the design using a program called OPTISTRUCT, with the original design as a reference.

“Since the optimization problem involves multiple loading cases, a weighted compliance approach is used to determine the optimized layout while considering four different loading cases,” the researchers explain. “The objective function is defined as minimize compliance response subjected to 20% volume fraction as the optimization constraint.”

The aim of the redesign was to reduce the need for supports, and the researchers were able to do so, although the weight of the part was increased. After reviewing the FEM analysis, the part was redesigned once again to reduce the weight. The final part required 91.7% less support structure, and the total manufacturing cost is reduced by 51.7%.

“Future work entails formalizing an approach that integrates topology optimization, FEM, support design, and DfAM rules into a more coherent framework,” the researchers conclude. “We also plan to fabricate and test Redesign 2 using EOS M280 machine and collect actual fabrication data similar to Design 0 to get a more accurate measure of the support requirement and trapped powder. Also, geometry affects the residual stresses and deflections caused by frequent heating and cooling cycles in a laser-based additive manufacturing process. Hence, for functional parts like this, it is important to know the performance of the design during the AM process. Thermo-mechanical simulations will be carried out to estimate the deflections in the part and this data will be used to redesign, if required.”

Authors of the paper include Nithin Reddy, Vincent Maranan, Timothy W. Simpson, Todd Palmer and Corey J. Dickman.

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BMW Surpasses One Million 3D Printed Automotive Components

BMW Group has been using 3D printing for more than 25 years, and in the last decade has produced a million parts using the technology. This year alone, the company expects that it will 3D print more than 200,000 components, a 42 percent increase over last year. And BMW Group is just getting started. The company is aggressively pursuing additive manufacturing, intent on staying ahead in an automotive industry that is rapidly embracing the technology.

“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 BMW Group Additive Manufacturing Center. “We are following the development and application of advanced these manufacturing methods very closely indeed, partly through longstanding cooperations with leading manufacturers in the field. At the same time, we are engaging in targeted technology scouting and evaluating innovative production systems.”

BMW Group’s millionth 3D printed component came recently in the form of a 3D printed window guide rail for the BMW i8 Roadster. It took only five days to develop and was quickly integrated into series production. The guide rail, which is located in the door of the Roadster, allows the window to operate smoothly. It was manufactured using HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology, which is now being used in the series production of automobiles for the first time. The technology is capable of producing up to 100 window guide rails in 24 hours. Additionally, BMW uses EOS Selective Laser Sintering and various other technologies for metal and polymers.

The window guide rail isn’t the only 3D printed component in the BMW i8 Roadster – it wasn’t even the first, actually. The first was the fixture for the soft top attachment, which was 3D printed from aluminum alloy. It is both lighter and stiffer than the traditional injection molded plastic component used in its place. This year, the component won an Altair Enlighten Award in the Modules category.

BMW Group began using both plastic and metal back in 2010 for the production of a smaller series of components such as the water pump pulley for DTM vehicles. In 2012, the company began using laser sintering for several components for the Rolls-Royce Phantom. While many automotive companies are using 3D printing in their manufacturing processes, a lot of them are mainly using the technology for tooling purposes. BMW Group has been one of the pioneers in using 3D printing for actual functional car parts.

The company has big plans for 3D printing in the future. Recently it began offering several customization options for the BMW MINI, many of them 3D printed. Last year BMW Group began using 3D printing for the fiber optic guides in the Rolls-Royce Dawn; Rolls-Royce currently has 10 3D printed components in its product line.

It was just earlier this year that BMW Group built a new dedicated Additive Manufacturing Campus, which likely at least partially accounts for the drastic increase in 3D printed parts over the last year. The two 3D printed components in the BMW i8 Roadster were designed and produced at the Additive Manufacturing Center, among many others. BMW Group has long been a leader in 3D printing in the automotive industry, and it clearly intends to hold on to that designation.

 

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[Source: Automobile Magazine]

 

Twikit and BMW Offer Flashy Customization Options for Your Next Car

While many automotive manufacturers have been using 3D printing in their design and manufacturing processes, BMW has been a leader in the field, using the technology for over 25 years. The company has used 3D printing for everything from roof racks to more advanced concepts. There are plenty of reasons for BMW and other automotive manufacturers to turn to 3D printing, like time and cost savings and the ability to produce lightweight, efficient, complex parts, but there are also some benefits of 3D printing that are simply fun, like customization.

BMW’s new MINI can be customized for users in a multitude of different ways, such as 3D printed patterns, pictures, shapes, and letters on the dashboard and glove box. You can even request an LED light that projects your name on the street when you get out of the car, according to BMW. The company is the first to take automotive personalization to this level, and it’s doing so with the help of Twikit, a Belgian company whose software platform emphasizes 3D printed customization possibilities.

BMW MINI customers can design their own customized cars online, and the digital files are sent to the production facility, where they are manufactured using 3D printing, laser cutting and other advanced technologies.

“Twikit technology was a bull’s eye right from the start,” said Twikit Co-Founder Gijs Hoppenbrouwers. “Since its foundation, we have been working with major players in various industries. Innovative players in the medical industry can now use our technology to make prostheses and orthoses on a large scale quickly. Customization for a mass audience is also perfectly possible for jewellery, furniture, windows and doors, electronics, … Companies discover that they can personalize products with modern, high-tech production techniques such as 3D printing and laser cutting, tailored to each individual customer.”

Twikit was founded in 2012 by Hoppenbrouwers, Martijn Joris and George Lieben. The company now has 33 employees and is becoming active worldwide, particularly in Europe and the United States. Besides working with BMW, Twikit also offers its personalized production services for prosthetics and orthotics, jewelry, electronics, windows and doors, and more. The company prides itself on being able to help companies smoothly and seamlessly bring together multiple digital production techniques such as 3D printing, CNC machining and laser cutting.

Will automotive customization catch on? We’ll have to wait and see. Will people value their own personal touches so much that they’ll be willing to pay €119 to have LED lights announce their presence any time they leave their car? Most people will likely still be swayed more by things like advanced safety features and seat warmers, but some certainly will be attracted to such customization offerings, and Hoppenbrouwers believes that many people will – that the future will be personalized.

“More and more products resemble each other, and not only in the automotive sector,” he said. “Allowing customers to personalize products is a way to stand out from the competition. The possibilities are endless. We reconcile production on a large scale with the desire of people to still have a unique product.”

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Ford Recognized for Work with Automotive 3D Printing

3D printed lift assist

Several major automotive manufacturers have been utilizing 3D printing, and Ford is one of them. Recently, the company has been recognized for its work in 3D printing. For the first time, the Automotive Innovation Awards Competition held by the Automotive Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) is recognizing additive manufacturing as a separate category, and Ford was the winner of all three finalist spots.

The parts that won Ford the finalist spots include a 3D printed injection mold lifter action used in the new Ranger pickup, a window alignment feature used in the 2017 Mustang convertible, and an assembly lift assist used to make the Escape SUV and Fusion sedan. These aren’t production parts – two are used in assembly and one in a tool, but the technology was still integral in the development and manufacturing of the products.

“We really didn’t understand the potential of what the capabilities of this process were going to be,” said Roy Raymer, Ford’s Product Coordinator for Rapid Manufacturing. “It’s incredible.”

Vent

The mold insert was developed to solve a problem of inadequate venting; the 3D printed insert has integrated venting channels to allow gas to escape. The design features vents along the top and side of each vane, which, Ford says, improves venting by 100 percent. Manufacturing time was reduced by 70 percent, and the integrated design eliminates the need for a separate grill. The mold is made by Hi-Tech Mold and Engineering.

The window alignment fixture is 3D printed using FDM, with 35 percent short carbon fiber reinforced polyamide. It is 30 percent lighter and cheaper to produce than a traditional welded fixture – it took only 50 hours to build the integrated feature with handles and mounting brackets. The 3D printed fixture integrates pneumatic control, eyelets for a stowage rack, trigger switch housing, ergonomic handles, a gage protector deflector, pneumatic tubing retainers and switch mounts.

The lift assist was also 3D printed using FDM, and according to Ford, it can lift anything from a half shaft to an instrument panel. 3D printing the part allowed for more complex geometries to better interface with the casting, and it cost 50 percent less than a traditional fixture. It also reduced weight by 222 pounds, reducing repetitive motion injuries and making it easier to operate overall. The company also greatly reduced lead time.

Window alignment tool

Ford began its 3D printing experimentation with an SLA 3D printer for making complex prototypes, and its work has since evolved to using FDM, SLS and 3D sand printing. Like many other automotive companies, Ford has discovered that 3D printing can save time, money, and material, and allow for the the creation of more complex and unique parts. While the examples above are parts used for tools and assembly, it won’t be surprising if Ford soon moves on to using 3D printing for actual production parts. Other companies, like Divergent 3D for example, are using 3D printing to build cars that are more lightweight and efficient, reducing both cost and environmental impact. As the benefits of 3D printing become more evident, we will likely see more and more manufacturers turn to using the technology for actual production, resulting in a significant change to the entire automotive industry.

The winners of the Automotive Innovation Awards Competition will be announced on November 7th.

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Betatype Case Study Illustrates Cost and Time Savings of Using 3D Printing to Fabricate Automotive Components

When it comes to industrial 3D printing for automotive applications, London-based Betatype is building up considerable expertise. The 3D printing company was founded in 2012, and works with its customers to deliver functional, 3D printed components. Betatype built a data processing platform called Engine to help manage and control multi-scale design; the platform maximizes the ability of 3D printing to provide control in one process over material, shape, and structure.

Some of the benefits provided by 3D printing include high cost-per-part, productivity, and volume, especially when it comes to using metals. Betatype recently completed a case study that demonstrates how the advantages of metal 3D printing can be properly leveraged for applications in automotive parts production. It focuses on Betatype’s use of laser powder bed fusion (LPBF, also called Powder Bed Fusion, DMLS and SLM) 3D printing and optimization technology to, as the case study puts it, challenge “the current status quo” by producing 384 qualified metal parts in one build, which helped lower both lead time and cost per part.

“When it comes to automotive and other consumer-facing industries focused on producing high volumes of parts at low costs, the current generation of Additive Manufacturing (AM) processes is generally considered incapable of meeting these needs,” Betatype explained in its study.

“The key to making AM productive enough for wider adoption across these high-volume industries, however, lies in process economics – choosing the most effective manufacturing process for each part. Combining these principles with Betatype’s knowledge of the limits of additive – as well as how and when to push them – together with the company’s powerful optimisation technology, supports customers with the design and production of parts that not only perform better, but that are economically viable against existing mass production technologies.”

Production build of automotive LED heatsinks by Progressive Technology on an EOS M280.

You’ll often hear people in the 3D printing industry saying that one of the benefits of the technology is its ability to offer greater design freedom than what you’d find in more conventional manufacturing process. While this is true – 3D printing can be used to produce some pretty complex geometry – that doesn’t mean it’s without its own problems. It’s necessary to understand these constraints in order to find applications that can fit with the technology, and be used in high volume manufacturing as well.

Processes like die casting are capable of creating millions of components a year. 3D printing is valuable due to its capability of using the least amount of material to provide geometrically complex parts. Often 3D printing just doesn’t have the manufacturing volume or part cost to be an economical choice. But, this may not be the case for long.

According to the case study they looked at, “how it is possible to combine the innate geometric capabilities of AM with increased production volumes of cost-effective parts and improved performance” The team looked at “the Automotive industry’s switch to the use of LED headlights, which brings with it new challenges in thermal management.”

Most LED headlights need larger heatsinks, which are typically actively cooled. Betatype realized that the geometry of these metal parts would make them a good candidate for metal 3D printing, which is able to combine several manufacturing processes into just one production technique.


Betatype realized that LPBF would be ideal during the component’s initial design stage, and so was able to design the component with in-built support features. This made it possible to stack multiple headlight parts without requiring any additional supports; in addition, the company maintains that completed parts could be snapped apart by hand without any other post-processing required. This claim is something that we are highly skeptical about. No destressing or tumbling, shot peening, HIP or other processes usually result in parts that look different from the ones in the images given to us.

[Image: EOS]

Depending on part geometry it can be difficult to achieve full stacking with LPBF 3D printing. This is largely due to thermal stresses placed on parts and supports. Betatype designed the part in such a way as to decrease these stresses. This is what allowed Betatype to nest a series of heatsinks in order to maximize build volume and produce nearly 400 parts in one build envelope using an EOS M 280 3D printer owned by Progressive Technology.

“Through specific control parameters, the exposure of the part in each layer to a single toolpath where the laser effectively melted the part was reduced significantly, with minimal delays in between.”

13 x the productivity per system. Estimated Number of Parts per Machine per Year/Model built on build times provided by Progressive Technology for SLMF system (EOS M 280) and Renishaw AMPD for MLMF system (RenAM 500Q).

One of the large drivers in part cost is equipment amortization, and it’s important to lower build time in order to make parts more cost-effective. By using LPBF 3D printing and its own process IP and optimization algorithms, Betatype claims to have reduced cost-per-part from over $40 to less than $4, and lower the build time from one hour to less than five minutes per part – ten times faster than what a standard build processor is capable of performing. This would be a huge leap in capability for metal printing if these cost estimates stack up.

On single laser systems, like the EOS M 280 and Renishaw’s RenAM 500M, Betatype says that lowered the build time for all 384 parts from 444 hours to less than 30 hours; this number went down even further, to less than 19 hours, by using new multi-laser systems like the SLM Solutions 500 and the RenAM 500Q.

Up to 90% reduction in part cost. Estimated Cost per Part / Model built on build times provided by Progressive Technology for SLMF system (EOS M 280) and Renishaw AMPD for MLMF system (RenAM 500Q).

Betatype’s claims that their customer was able to achieve a productivity gain of 19 times the old figure per system in a year  – going from 7,055 parts to a total of 135,168.

The case study concludes, “With an installation of 7 machines running this optimised process, volumes can approach 1 million parts per year — parts that are more functional and more cost-effective.”

It always good to show performance that is a step change ahead of what everyone thought possible. It is also significant that companies are making detailed case studies and verifiable claims as to output and yield. Betatype’s Case Study shows very promising numbers and we hope that productivity can indeed reach these heights with their technology.

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[Images provided by Betatype unless otherwise noted]

BMW Impresses with 3D Printed Roof Bracket for BMW i8 Roadster

BMW has been using 3D printing for more than 25 years, so the automotive manufacturer has built up a high level of expertise over the decades. Recently, the company has leveraged 3D printing to create some interesting concept cars, but BMW uses 3D printing for more than just creative concepts – it’s putting the technology to work in real-world applications. In fact, BMW is leading the way in the use of 3D printing for mass production in the automotive industry by creating the first metal 3D printed part to be successfully produced for a road car.

The part is a roof bracket for the 2018 BMW i8 Roadster, and it had been in the works for 10 years, until 3D printing advanced to the point at which it could begin producing the part in mass quantities, though relatively small ones. The bracket makes the soft top of the automobile quickly raise and lower and fold and unfold in a zigzag configuration. It wasn’t an easy part to design. It needed to lift, push and pull the weight of the roof, and its design was necessarily complex, making it impossible to cast.

BMW’s designers and engineers used topology optimization software to input specifications like the space they had available and the weight of the load they needed to move, and the software generated a load path, which is a design that distributes the load to minimize the amount of material required in the part. Frequently, the load path is too complicated to be translated into a physical object, even through 3D printing. Complex designs require additional supports, which take up additional space and add extra steps to the production process, making it too lengthy and costly.

The BMW part, which was designed by Maximilian Meixlsperger, Head of Metal Additive Manufacturing at the company, overcame these challenges.

“What BMW did is get this done without support,” said Richard Yen, Altair Senior Vice President for Global Automotive and Industry. “Now they can print one batch at a time for mass production, They can print more than 600 of these brackets in one batch.”

Yen was one of the judges at the recent Altair Enlighten Awards, which honor advancements in lightweighting technology. BMW’s 3D printed roof bracket earned a lot of attention at the awards ceremony for its innovative design, which is 44% lighter than the roof bracket conventionally manufactured for the previous Roadster model.

“When the judges looked at this part, we said, ‘this is the tip of the iceberg for manufacturing,’” said Yen.

BMW was not the biggest winner of the evening – that was GM, which took top awards for reducing the weight of its 2019 Chevy Silverado by 9%, 450 lbs. lighter than the 2018 model of the vehicle. The company achieved this through thinner and stronger new steels, mysterious new assembly processes, and computer simulation. While GM may have taken the top awards, however, BMW got plenty of attention for its roof bracket, which heralds a new era of mass production through metal additive manufacturing.

Lightweighting is obviously a major goal for the entire automotive industry, as lighter-weight vehicles use less fuel and are thus more efficient in cost as well as more eco-friendly. Additive manufacturing is being used by many in the industry to deliver more lightweight parts, and although BMW’s roof bracket is a small part of a much larger machine, its impact on the product as a whole is a big one.

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[Source: Industry Week/Images: BMW]