Audi incorporates 3D printed engine components with help from SLM Solutions
The automaker has been using the SLM 280, which offers a large build envelop, to prototype and produce spare parts.0
Audi has been working closely with additive manufacturing giant SLM Solutions Group to design and develop complex components for the auto industry.
The automaker currently uses the selective laser melting process of the SLM 280 to 3D print prototypes and spare parts. The company has had success using 3D printing for the water adapters of the Audi W12 engine.
Metal 3D printing allows for complex structures to be incorporated into vehicle components, which wouldn’t be available with traditional manufacturing techniques. And Audi is taking advantage of the benefits of metallic 3D printing for special application areas.
“Manufacturing on demand is a vision for us to ensure supply with original spare parts, which are required less often, economically and sustainably in the future,” explains Dr. Alexander Schmid, After Sales Manager at Audi AG. “Regional printing centers would simplify logistics and warehousing.”
The automaker has been using the SLM 280, which offers a large build envelop, to prototype and produce spare parts.
“The new constructive freedoms provided by this technology are especially interesting,” explains Harald Eibisch, in the Technology Development Department at Audi AG. “Components for prototypes and spare parts requested extremely rarely are better suited for SLM processes than conventional manufacturing procedures thanks to the benefits of free geometric design. The load capacity of the components is comparable with parts manufactured using traditional methods.”
The W12 engine also demonstrates the effectiveness of using 3D printing to produce its water adapter component. Because material is applied layer by layer, you can specifically influence the microstructure, via which the mechanical properties different significantly from conventionally produced components.
According to Ralf Frohwerk, Global Head of Business Development at SLM Solutions Group AG, more and more automobile manufacturers are investing in metal-based 3D printing.
“Knowing that nearly every automaker also has vehicle programs with numbers of pieces < 2000 – 3000 units per year in its portfolio, there are also already aluminum die cast components today, for example, that can be produced more economically using additive processes,” Frohwerk adds.
However, 3D printing is not suitable for all components. As a general rule, parts that are smaller, complex and not very cost sensitive can be easily developed using this method.
“The additive process provides us with plenty of leeway, for example, if a component is to handle additional functions such as cooling or current,” explains Dr. Ruben Heid, in the Technology Development Department at Audi AG. “The new procedure also provides benefits in weight reduction.”