Located in Oberschleissheim, north of Munich, the facility “concentrate the full spectrum of the BMW Group’s 3D printing expertise at a single location.”
The development of 3D printing technology is aimed at producing not only individual components for concepts and prototypes, but also small production runs and even large-scale manufacturing.
The facility, located in an existing building with a footprint of over 6,000 square meters, will accommodate up to 80 associates and over 30 industrial systems for metals and plastics.
The facility is scheduled to start the activity in early 2019.
(Source: BMW Group)
Decentralising manufacturing – production follows the market
The BMW Group expects that, with time, it will become possible to produce components directly where they are ultimately needed – an idea that harbours tremendous potential. Jens Ertel: “The 3D printers that are currently operating across our production network represent a first step towards local part production. We are already using additive manufacturing to make prototype components on location in Spartanburg (US), Shenyang (China) and Rayong (Thailand). Going forward, we could well imagine integrating it more fully into local production structures to allow small production runs, country-specific editions and customisable components – provided it represents a profitable solution.” This would make additive manufacturing a useful addition to existing production technologies.
Investments through BMW i Ventures
For the BMW Group, investments in start-ups have proved promising not only in strategic but also in commercial terms. In addition, they represent a sustainable strategic value add.
In September 2016, for example, the BMW Group’s venture capital arm, BMW i Ventures, invested in the Silicon Valley-based company Carbon, whose DLS (digital light synthesis) printing technology was a breakthrough in the production of parts with high-quality surfaces. The technique allows significantly larger areas to be processed more rapidly than would otherwise be possible with conventional selective 3D printing. Carbon and the BMW Group have been partners since 2015.
A further investment in additive manufacturing came in February 2017, this time in the start-up Desktop Metal. Desktop Metal specialises in the additive manufacturing of metal components and has developed highly productive and innovative methodologies. It now works closely with the Additive Manufacturing Centre at the BMW Group.
In June 2017 the BMW Group invested in a company called Xometry, which works in the supply chain industry. Xometry is a web-based platform that networks suppliers and manufacturers from different sectors with each other. Pilot projects are already underway in a range of areas including spare parts manufacturing.
Cooperations with innovative partners such as these aim to speed up the adoption of additive manufacturing technologies.
Digital production methods for vehicle development and manufacturing
Thanks to its tremendous scope for the rapid manufacture of quality parts of almost any geometry, additive manufacturing has been in use in the construction of concept cars at the BMW Group since 1991. Components are realised purely using digital data, eliminating the need for classic tools such as press tools and injection moulds. At present, the technology is most commonly used for small production runs of customised and often highly complex components.