Big Push in Germany to Enable 3D Printing in Automotive Industry

3D printing and additive manufacturing have become a matter of national importance in Germany, and to the automotive industry overall. Several organizations—along with the ongoing support of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT and the Chair for Digital Additive Production DAP of RWTH Aachen University—are eager to see the Industrialization and Digitization of Additive Manufacturing for Automotive Series Processes (IDAM) lead the way for furthering the use of AM processes in the auto industry. Project partners for IDAM include a variety of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and research institutions, all dedicated to the progress of metallic 3D printing for the manufacturing of vehicles.

BMW Group is behind much of this push, and their dedication to additive manufacturing for almost 30 years has not gone unnoticed. From an investment in a new AM facility in Munich to specialized projects like restoring Elvis’ long-lost BMW 507 from 1958, their work in 3D printing has been so prolific that by last year they had fabricated over one million parts, harnessing the untold power of this progressive technology. Currently, 3D printing and AM processes with metal are in force at BMW’s facility in Munich, along with GKN Powder Metallurgy’s factory in Bonn.

This structural optimized differential housing, jointly developed by GKN Powder Metallurgy and Porsche Engineering, is one of the growing new e-drive powertrain applications for Metal AM (Photo: GKN Powder Metallurgy)

There are 12 partners total working within the ongoing project via IDAM, and as Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT points out in their latest press release, the use of metallic 3D printing should ‘sustainably strengthen Germany’s technological pioneering role and the country itself as a manufacturing location.’ Everyone involved is obviously envisioning making use of all of 3D printing’s most famed benefits, beginning with greater affordability. Along with that comes exponential reduction of turnaround time in manufacturing, and the ability to offer a wide range of customization options for clientele.

The IDAM team is present at both facilities, qualifying the technology for production of metal parts, with projections for manufacturing at least 50,000 3D printed parts annually. They also expect over 10,000 individual and spare parts to be created. This is a far cry from the initial use of 3D printing for low-batch production of customized parts. Even with plans for mass production, the partners expect high-performance parts to be created ‘under extreme cost pressure.’

Project partners include:

  • Aconity GmbH, Herzogenrath
  • Concept Reply GmbH, Munich
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT, Aachen
  • GKN Powder Metallurgy, Radevormwald
  • Myrenne GmbH, Roetgen
  • Intec GmbH – Ingenieurbüro für Automatisierungstechnik, Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler
  • Kinexon Industries GmbH, Munich
  • Chair for Digital Additive Production DAP, RWTH Aachen, Aachen
  • Technical University of Munich, Chair of Metal Forming and Casting, Munich
  • Schmitz Spezialmaschinenbau GmbH, Rheinbreitbach
  • Volkmann GmbH, Soest

Additive series production at the BMW Group (Photo: BMW Group)

This activity truly marks the beginning of metal AM taking a prioritized role within Germany’s industrial dynamic, with two modular production lines being installed (one in Munich; one in Bonn). Customization is key here too, as modules can be changed to fit production needs.

“In addition, their process steps can be controlled and utilized flexibly,” states Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in their press release. “By taking an integrated view of the automotive production line into account, the project partners plan on reducing the manual share of activities along the process chain from currently around 35 percent to less than 5 percent. In addition, the unit costs of 3D printed metal components should be more than halved.”

The IDAM partners are currently using their experience and expertise in designing modules for the mass production line, to include automated processes for powder handling, monitoring, post-processing, and more.

“Since large industrial companies are involved, these linked modules can be used in the AM production lines under real conditions and on a large scale,” explains the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT release. “In addition, industrial standards can be set, and industry-relevant quality characteristics elaborated. Only through this interdisciplinary cooperation does the IDAM project make it possible to holistically examine metallic 3D printing for automotive series processes and to establish it sustainably in production.”

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

Consortium of the BMBF project IDAM at the kick-off in Munich on March 27, 2019 (Photo: BMW Group)

[Source: Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology IL]

3D Printing Industry Expert Interview: Alejandro Espinoza Orias

Alejandro A. Espinoza Orias

Alejandro A. Espinoza Orias, PhD, received a licentiate degree in mechanical engineering degree from the Universidad Mayor de San Andres (La Paz, Bolivia) in addition to master’s and doctoral degrees in aerospace and mechanical engineering from the University of Notre Dame. He later completed a postdoctoral fellowship in spine biomechanics at the McKay orthopedic research laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Rush University Medical Center. His research interests include joint biomechanics, the study of structure-function relationships in orthopedic materials and tissues and applications of 3D printing in orthopedics.

Espinoza Orias is an active member of the Orthopaedic Research Society, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Society for Testing and Materials International, and Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, He conducts peer review on many orthopedic and biomechanics journals and is on the editorial board of PLoS One.

Ese: Tell me about your educational background?

Alejandro: I became a mechanical engineer in my home country of Bolivia. Then I came to the US for grad school. I got my Masters and PhD from Notre Dame. This is where I first started learning about 3D Printing and computer-aided design.

What inspired you early on in your life to get you to this point currently?

I always liked CAD. When I got to grad school I worked on CAD projects. We made some cool prototypes and learned some rapid prototyping. I was focused on finding projects that had very interesting and applicable uses.

Explain more about what you do currently?

I do a combination of things. Having a use case for 3D printing is cool. I get to help patients with 3D printing. In my mind, all of these things are 3D problems. My lab is focusing on image based mechanics. We look at CT, XRAY, and various other imaging technologies. We are able to understand morphology more precisely through 3D visualization. It is awesome for printing and VR/AR applications. For example, If one is to get a hip replacement it is important to have precise tools that are helpful. You must plan for when you are experiencing a problem that does not fit typical anatomy. These tools can be leveraged for these type of situations where a doctor may not have the requisite historical knowledge to diagnose a newer and atypical defect.

Rush Medical Center

What is the future scope of your lab?

We want to be a large lab to print for hospitals. The idea would be to have a center where you can have a lab that has a focus on very good visualization. That is the most important for our future I believe. Complicated systems and complications happen in various fields. We want to be able to break down these systems. It is important to have great visualization as this field is always oriented in how great an image looks.

What is important for someone who wants to work in a lab?

Be curious and ask why. Be good with computers. Be able to think in 3 dimensions. Be able to completely understand anatomy. This type of work is very hands on. It is helpful to have that skill. One should be looking at how things work. How to make things is really important.

Where do you see the field going?

There is a focus on new materials. Printers are able to do even more detailed things. Biomimicry is huge. There is a lot of people doing the same methods as well though. In general the industry is attempting to adopt this. A need for high-end printers is not that necessary in every setting. Different industries are becoming aware. The key is to focus on materials. We want to print a product. Post processing is very important. Companies are focusing on the importance of finishing products now. It is a very interesting development.

Bioprinting in the lab setting

What mindset do doctors bring to the field of bioprinting?

People from different backgrounds can be a medical doctor. Doctors focus on caring for patients as that is their passion. It is a lot of varied talent. Surgeons are usually good carpenters. Radiologists are an analytical bunch. In the area I intersect with, radiologists are important as they know how to make images. MD & PhD holders are not all interested in necessarily practicing medicine. They are typically great at research. This field is very interdisciplinary. Leveraging all the talent is essential.

What advice do you have for anyone who is interested in this field?

Be passionate about new technology. Be a hands-on person. It is important to know how to make your own tools. Be open to helping others. This is a patient-driven field. Really push yourself to think in 3 dimensions. It is the key to being excellent within this field. Just be ready for the changes in technology as this field is rapidly developing on a constant basis.

RESHAPE returns for 2019 with Cognified Matter 3D printed product design competition

The RESHAPE design competition, which invites submissions for new solutions in wearable technology and product design using 3D printing and other digital manufacturing technologies, returns this year for the RESHAPE 19 V Edition. The competition is organized by Noumena, a robotics, 3D printing and wearable specialist, Barcelona 3D printing event INDUSTRY (formerly known as IN(3D)USTRY), Fira […]

Poietis granted European patent for laser-assisted 3D bioprinting

Poietis, a French biotechnology company, has announced the granting of a third patent for its laser-assisted 3D bioprinting method. “We were the first to explore the industrial potential of laser-assisted bioprinting technology in various applications,” stated Fabien Guillemot, President and CEO of Poietis. “The granting of this series of European patents further supports Poietis’ position in […]

Spain’s National Archaeological Museum and Acciona Presented The First Romanesque Arch Printed in 3D

Collections of objects are normally exhibited behind enclosed glass displays to prevent people from touching them. Considering these objects are fragile and have a great historical value, museums have to undertake the necessary requirements to protect them. With 3D printing, this is changing. Replicas are being 3D printed, allowing visitors to touch them.

Image via Factum Foundation

Replicas might spark discussions about the originality of the art pieces, since their reproductions may be considered as “fake”, or even about the right to capture and to distribute online models that anyone can later print them. However,  3D printed replicas let visitors enjoy and appreciate artworks better, and learn more about cultural heritage. For example, in 2017, Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, was recreated by Factum Arte which allowed visitors to experience the inside of the tomb, without harming the original burial site.

This month, Spain’s National Archaeological Museum and Acciona (a global renewable energy, infrastructure, water, and services company) marked a milestone by 3D printing the Romanesque Arch of San Pedro de las Dueñas. The arch is already a part of the museum’s collection, but the 3D printed replica is now located in the museum’s garden. The arch was created to contribute to technological advances in conservation techniques, and also for the preservation of Spain’s historical heritage.

Image via Acciona

The Arch of San Pedro de las Dueñas is a lasting example of Romanesque architecture. The arch was formerly part of the San Pedro de las Dueñas Monastery, which was built in the late 10th century and the beginning of the 11th century. It stands in the Castile and León region of Northwestern Spain.

San Pedro de las Dueñas Monastery via Arquivoltas

At the presentation ceremony, the director of the National Archaeological Museum, Andrés Carretero, stated that the development “puts the Museum to the forefront worldwide in the application of new technologies to the disseminating and preservation of cultural heritage.”

Original Arch – Photo by Martius on Flickr

Acciona’s executive vice chairman, Juan Ignacio Entrecanales, expressed the importance of this joint project between Acciona and the National Archaeological Museum, which has demonstrated the “immense potential that new technologies, such as 3D printing, have for the preservation, dissemination, restoration, and accessibility of cultural heritage”.

The arch stands in the garden at 2.2m tall by 3.3m wide. It was reproduced using the D-Shape technology, which is a 3D printing technique that uses concrete binder jetting. According to Acciona, the material’s durability makes it possible to achieve the architectural reproduction they were looking for, which is suitable for outdoor locations thanks to its resistance to weather conditions.

The 3D Printed Arch via Revista de Arte

“The possibility of obtaining exact replicas means that the public can approach the reproduction while the original is preserved. This technology also makes it possible to reproduce pieces in their original locations while the original is preserved in appropriate facilities”, says Acciona.



Acciona has also digitalized 30 medieval items of Spain’s National Archaeological Museum to allow visitors to manipulate them through an interactive screen. Ranging from the 4th to the 15th century, some of these digitalized items include: the Crucifix of Ferdinand and Sancha (León), the Aquiliform fibula Alovera (Guadalajara), and the brass Astrolabe of Ibrāhim ibn Sa’īd al-Shalī (León). Acciona believes that the digital models will assist perfectly in future restorations, for technology makes it possible to replicate artwork through 3D printers.

Sources: [Acciona, Spotting History]

Using Semi-Supervised Machine Learning in Laser Powder-bed Fusion Fault Detection

Researchers from the University of Liverpool outline their findings regarding the automatic detection of faults in additive manufacturing products in a recently published paper, ‘Automatic fault detection for laser powder-bed fusion using semi-supervised machine learning.’ Their work continues an ongoing trend in perfecting 3D printing and additive manufacturing techniques to enhance numerous industries currently delving into the technology.

The scientists have created a machine learning algorithm, using a semi-supervised approach, to detect AM product flaws. The algorithm draws data from parts that are already certified as well as those with unknown quality. While this not only furthers the quality of 3D printing, the approach is much more efficient and affordable—in relation to laser powder-bed fusion printing.

The researchers compiled data using ‘high precision photodiodes,’ a type of very sensitive sensor able to process measurements to assess quality.

“Understanding the correlations between this data and build quality is a challenging area,” state the researchers. “However, advances in machine learning have made it possible to create and apply intelligent algorithms to large datasets for decision making.”

“Such algorithms can identify patterns in large data, after being trained. The current work is based on the hypothesis that, using large amounts of process measurements from L-PBF machines, machine learning can be used to quickly and cheaply classify the success of L-PBF builds.”

The semi-supervised approach is exactly what it sounds like—a mode in between completely supervised with labeled data and defined sets and unsupervised learning where patterns much be discovered with unlabeled data.

“With a semi-supervised approach, the user provides some labeled data and some unlabeled data at the same time,” state the researchers. “The model may then attempt to establish a decision boundary and classifies the data into clusters; based on the characteristics of the provided labeled and unlabeled information.”

The researchers point out that a semi-supervised approach works well in a scenario rich in unlabeled data, with only a few labeled data—saving time and money in the number of experiments performed.

This is a data-based project, based only on patterns from the photodiode measurements, helping the researchers identify the causes of 3D printing defects. Often, they are the result of poor settings, inferior supports, issues with powder, or temperature or material problems. The four following parameters have the most effect on part quality:

  • Part bed temperature
  • Laser power
  • Scan speed
  • Scan spacing

For this study, two L-PBF builds were used, and the researchers built 50 tensile test bars, with 25 yielded in each build. Data was gleaned from each build, as ‘the x and y position of the laser was collected alongside time history measurements from 2 photodiodes sensors (sample frequency equal to 100 kHz, resulting in approximately 400 GB of data per build).’

x–y coordinates of the laser as a single layer of a build is being constructed. Red areas indicate the positions of the 25 tensile test bars while blue represents the laser path. Note that x–y coordinates are calculated from galvanometer measurements and that, for confidentiality reasons, units of position have been left as arbitrary.

Tensile tests were performed by the research time, and each bar was judged as either acceptable or faulty, with a 77 percent test rate.

“The results show that semi-supervised learning is a promising approach for the automatic certification of AM builds that can be implemented at a fraction of the cost currently required,” concluded the researchers.

“Future work aims to investigate whether classification can be improved through the use of additional, complimentary sensing systems (acoustic sensors and thermal imaging cameras, for example).”

Example semi-supervised learning results. Red and green contours show the inferred geometry of the two Gaussian distributions in the mixture. Circles represent the true labels that were assigned to each specimen, while triangles show the inferred labels.

With the inception of 3D printing came the continual marveling of all we can create—but also continual suspicion regarding whether the parts can hold up for functional use, some of it which is meant to be highly industrial. Testing of parts has become an extensive field on its own, whether in improving CT scanning procedures, testing 3D printed motors for the military, or even using robotics for such purposes. Find out more about testing of parts in relation to laser powder-bed fusion here. What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

Initial analysis of data from a single photodiode sensor, for a single build.

[Source / Images: Automatic fault detection for laser powder-bed fusion using semi-supervised machine learning]

Bossard Group continues 3D printing expansion with 30% stake in Ecoparts  

Bossard, a Swiss fastener technology and logistics group has acquired a 30% share in fellow Swiss company Ecoparts, a 3D printing service bureau. The move is the latest in a series of 3D printing deals made by the company in the last few years. Commenting in relation to the new shares, the company stated, “This […]

Interview Greg Kress: Shapeways launches Etsy E-commerce Integration for 3D printing services

Shapeways, a New York-headquartered 3D printing marketplace, has partnered with e-commerce website Etsy to provide shop owners with a direct channel to manage orders from Shapeways. Etsy has hosted many small businesses who are also Shapeways customers seeking to reach a wider audience with their products. As a result of feedback from both communities, the Etsy E-commerce Integration […]

Shapeways Launches E-Commerce Integration with Etsy for Shop Owners of 3D Printed Products

If you’re looking to buy someone a unique gift, many people know that global marketplace Etsy is the best place to go. Founded in 2005 and headquartered in Brooklyn, the e-commerce site connects millions of buyers and sellers around the world through its mission to keep commerce human. Small business owners on Etsy definitely enjoy being their own bosses, but sometimes all of the work can pile up – who’s got time to design and create when you’re busy taking care of paperwork all the time?

Luckily, there’s a solution for Etsy shop owners who specialize in 3D printed products – today, Shapeways announced the launch of its new Etsy E-commerce Integration, which will make the lives of these small business owners just a little easier.

“Our mission in launching the Etsy E-commerce Integration is to create a seamless experience for the entrepreneurs using Shapeways. Small business owners are already juggling multiple hats, and we are excited to help make Etsy Shop Owners’ lives easier by enabling them to seamlessly grow their businesses and helping current Shapeways’ customers not currently on the platform expand their customer base by offering a new place for them to sell their designs,” said Greg Kress, CEO of Shapeways.

Shapeways is the world’s top manufacturer of 3D printed goods for small- and mid-sized businesses, with over 1 million creators and more than 10 million 3D printed products. Offering over 40 3D printing materials and finishes, Shapeways has offices in both the Netherlands and New York, and the platform provides services from the partners with its global supply chain network, along with its own factories.

The new partnership between these two online marketplaces will offer a seamless integration for Etsy shop owners to manage their orders and fulfillment right from Shapeways, at no charge for current or new customers of both sites. The platform is easy to set up: an API plug-in creates a channel for direct ordering and shipping from Shapeways, which negates all of the bothersome administrative steps and gives designers more time to focus on creating their work.

Ola Shektman, Creator and Designer of the Etsy shop Cityscapes Rings, said, “Etsy is one of the easiest ways to open a small business and offers an incredibly large market of ready to buy customers. Before the Etsy E-commerce Integration, it took 5-6 minutes to place an order for my Etsy customers. This integration is magic, orders are placed automatically so I can spend more of my time working on new ideas and designs.”

Shapeways’ customers enjoy using the Etsy platform as a way to showcase their products for a larger audience of consumers, and with today’s news, the creation, selling, and shipping of 3D printed items on Etsy will be much easier. This new integration, which was created after listening to feedback from community members, will give Etsy shop owners the ability to easily sync their products, 3D printed by Shapeways, to their shop. In turn, they can then automatically push their orders right to Shapeways, and then ship them directly out to their customers. In addition, the integration offers multiple delivery choices, so that shop owners can easily customize their options.

Finally, this new partnership will allow Shapeways community members who don’t already have an Etsy shop set up the chance to create one, which will help increase their visibility and allow potential customers to easily find them and purchase their 3D printed products.

Discuss this story and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below.

3DPod: 3D Printing Podcast Episode 4 3D Printing Guns

Today Maxwell Bogue and I take a look at a rather contentious subject 3D printing guns. Is there a real threat? Are we making the problem worse by discussing it? What actually happened? Who should be responsible? Glass guns and printcrime. What can we learn from the 3D printed gun debate? And what should we do for the next time?

We’d love to hear from you. What do you think of our podcasts? What should we improve? Any suggestions on subjects we should talk about?

Episode 4