The partnership between HP and Volkswagen, two of the largest companies in the world in their respective fields of expertise, was formed last year with the goal of producing large batches of metal 3D printed automotive parts. One year later the first key milestone has been achieved with a production run of more than 10,000 parts – a set of 3D printed ID.3 models – produced by HP and GKN Powder Metallurgy in just a few weeks, to support the visionary ID.3 electric vehicle launch event.
While the batch size is impressive, these are not final parts but rather miniature models of the vehicle,measuring about an inch in length which, incidentally, is the size that the Volkswagen team in charge fo 3D printing has identified as the most viable at this time. The key element to consider here is that it was cost-effective to 3D print them rather than produce them traditionally. Thus this cannot be considered mass production of final automotive parts quite yet but it is, nonetheless, a key milestone in the first stage of its three-phase strategic roadmap to functional production.
“Our vision to industrialize additive manufacturing is quickly becoming a reality with HP Metal Jet, it is a game-changer for the automotive industry,” said Dr. Martin Goede, Head of Technology Planning and Development, Volkswagen. “The pace of innovation by HP and advanced capabilities of the technology has exceeded our expectations. We are meeting our milestones and are actively identifying and developing functional parts for production.”
The production of the ID.3 models represents the successful execution of the first step of Volkswagen’s strategic roadmap for Metal Jet production beginning with mass customization and cosmetic parts. In subsequent phases Volkswagen intends to integrate Metal Jet printed structural parts into the next generation of vehicles as quickly as possible and are targeting a continuous increase inpart size and technical requirements – with the future goal of soccer-size parts of 50.000 to 100.000 per year. Examples of higher performance functional parts with significant structural requirements include gearshift knobs and mirror mounts. As new platforms such as electric vehicles enter mass production, HP Metal Jet is expected to be leveraged for additional applications such as the lightweighting of fully safety-certified metal parts.
“A digital transformation in the auto industry is underway and Volkswagen is leading the way with strategic vision and bold action,” said Tim Weber, Global Head of Metals, HP 3D Printing and Digital Manufacturing. “We are committed to delivering the capabilities our customers need to accelerate the design and production of high quality final parts with breakthrough economics. Together with Volkswagen and partners like GKN we are standing up the factories of the future.”
HP is partnering with GKN Powder Metallurgy, the world’s leading provider of metal parts, to deploy HP Metal Jet factories to produce functional metal parts for auto and industrial leaders. The collaboration between Volkswagen, HP and GKN Powder Metallurgy has resulted in the ability to move quickly to produce parts at scale. To support the recent unveil of the new Volkswagen ID.3, the first fully electric production car with a CO2-neutral footprint, the company leveraged the rapid expansion of Metal Jet capacity at the GKN Factories in Bad Langensalza and Radevormwald and at HP in Barcelona to produce more than 10,000 ID.3 models for the vehicle‘s massive marketing campaign. Volkswagen intends to distribute the models to Volkswagen employees and car dealers around the world.
“What better way to showcase the innovation of Volkswagen than to use our own technologies in the marketing campaign for the premiere ID.3 launch,” said Dr. Goede. “We are extremely pleased with the technical features and the speed, quality and low cost per part that HP Metal Jet has provided. The surface quality and feature resolution enabled great attention to detail and made it possible to add a special touch to this important company milestone.”