Additive ManufacturingAutomationAutomotive

IDAM project kicks off to pave way for AM in automotive production

Targets modular AM assembly lines for mass production of 50,000 units/year

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The joint project IDAM, which was recently kicked off in Munich, is intended to pave the way for additive manufacturing to enter automotive series production. Specifically, the project partners – consisting of SMEs, large companies and research institutions – will transfer metallic 3D printing into an industrialized and highly automated series process in the automotive industry.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen and the Chair for Digital Additive Production DAP of RWTH Aachen University are supporting the project through their many years of experience in the field of additive manufacturing technologies. The goal of IDAM is to promote the “Industrialization and Digitization of  Additive Manufacturing (AM) for Automotive Series Processes”.

This is not the first time such a project is undertaken in Germany focusing on the powerful local automotive industry. Last year EOS, Premium Aerotech and Daimler partnered on the NextGenAM project to industrialize automotive AM (with a special focus on aluminum), and a dedicated state of the art facility, in Varel, Germany. In its 2017 report – still very much accurate and actual today – SmarTech Analysis had identified the automotive segment as a key short and medium term expansion area for AM.

50,000 serial parts per year

Coordinated by BMW, twelve project partners – including GKN – are laying an important cornerstone to sustainably strengthen Germany’s technological pioneering role and the country itself as a manufacturing location. By integrating metallic 3D printing into conventional automotive industry production lines, IDAM will enable them to replace costly and time-consuming processes, such as the production of molds, and to increment product customization capabilities.

Additive series production at the BMW Group. © BMW Group

Metallic 3D printing is being implemented at two locations: the BMW Group’s Additive Manufacturing Center in Munich and automotive supplier GKN Powder Metallurgy’s factory of in Bonn. There, the IDAM team is qualifying AM technology for the specific requirements to produce identical parts as well as individual and spare parts on the basis of specific components. The targeted quantities speak for the signal character of the joint project: In the future, it should be possible to produce at least 50,000 components per year in mass production and over 10,000 individual and spare parts – at the highest quality and under extreme cost pressure – with AM production lines.

Modular production lines

Two modular and almost completely automated AM production lines are being set up in Bonn and Munich. They cover the entire process, from digital to physical component manufacturing all the way to post-processing. Individual modules can be adapted to the different production requirements thanks to the modular construction of the line and, if necessary, replaced. In addition, their process steps can be controlled and utilized flexibly. 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.

This structurally 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. © GKN Powder Metallurgy

Interdisciplinary cooperation

The expertise of the SMEs within the project consortium comes to the forefront in designing, providing and connecting the modules for the AM production line. Among other things, they take over the automation of the interfaces between the individual process steps or, as part of the project, develop a series-ready and modular production facility for metallic 3D printing. The other modular process components, such as powder handling, monitoring and automated post-processing, are also being developed by the SMEs.

The research institutions are assuming tasks for process control, the digital twin and the preventive increase in quality, among others. 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. 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.

Research Project “Industrialization and Digitization of Additive Manufacturing (AM) for Automobile Series Processes – IDAM”

BMW Group
Project partners:
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
Sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under the call “Line integration of additive manufacturing processes”

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based 3dpbm. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites 3D Printing Media Network and Replicatore, as well as 3D Printing Business Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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