In our automotive focus last month, we spotlighted many of the automakers using additive manufacturing for production today, including German automotive giant Volkswagen. Today, one of Volkswagen’s leading brands Audi has revealed more about its use of 3D printing. A team of 3D printing specialists at Audi’s Böllinger Höfe facility is working with Berlin-based software company trinckle to develop a software platform for designing tools.
The goal of the collaboration is to establish an easy-to-use design software that will enable Audi employees to easily design a custom tool without extensive design or 3D printing experience. According to Audi, the new software eliminates time-consuming steps in the traditional design process, including manually sculpting models in CAD programs. The new platform reportedly has the capacity to cut design times for new tools down by 80%.
Waldemar Hirsch, project manager and the head of the 3D printing team at the Ramp-Up and Analysis Center at Audi Böllinger Höfe, said: “Our software makes the process of creating pre-assembly fixtures almost completely automated. That allows us to make the necessary tools quickly and flexibly and to respond to specific requests from the planners or our colleagues on the assembly line.”
The design software and resulting 3D printed tools are playing an important role in the production of the Audi e-tron GT, the brand’s first vehicle to use 3D printing as an established part of its series production workflow. The vehicle, which is scheduled to come off the assembly line later this year, will rely on optimized assembly tools made with additive manufacturing technologies. Audi’s 3D printing team is working closely with its process and assembly planning and pre-production teams for this project.
“Collaborative design from an early stage enables optimizations to be made earlier in the process as well,” added Hirsch. “This means that all the necessary tools will already be available and calibrated to the exact requirements when production of the e-tron GT begins.”
One of the 3D printed tools developed for the Audi e-tron GT’s production is for the pre-assembly of air-conditioning compressors and cooling lines, which must be perfectly aligned. Traditionally, the assembly required at least two people to execute, but now with the 3D printed pre-assembly fixture and an integrated clamp, the components can be assembled with precise alignment.
The dedicated design software developed by Audi and trinckle is helping the automaker to accelerate its digitalization and take tangible steps towards achieving smart factory status. Today, the browser-based software is being used by Audi Sport GmbH at the Böllinger Höfe site, but the company eventually plans to roll it out more broadly.