Metal 3D Printing: EOS and Audi Reach Another Milestone
The automobile manufacturer Audi has been using additive manufacturing to build prototypes and to manufacture auxiliary tools for years. For example, in the Audi ramp-up and analysis center in Neckarsulm, plastic 3D printing has been an integral part of the production process for some time. The automobile giant, part of the Volkswagen Group, opened its own metal 3D printing center in Ingolstadt in 2017. There the focus was initially on the manufacture of spare parts – today the company already produces some tool parts exclusively using the SLM process. The company relies on EOS M 400 models which has enabled it to completely abandon traditional manufacturing methods such as injection molding for some parts.
EOS and Audi have been working together for years on the further development of additive manufacturing within the company. In 2016, EOS advised the automobile manufacturer on the construction of the metal 3D printing center. Since then, tools and components made of metal powder have been produced there using the laser sintering process . In the past few years, the Audi experts in Ingolstadt have been able to manufacture more than 100,000 parts, which have been installed in selected models and gradually found their way to series production. According to EOS, the current change represents an important milestone in the cooperation between the two companies. Audi only additively manufacture selected tool segments for hot forming and according to EOS, EOS technology is currently used in twelve segments of four tools for hot forming. The printing of significantly more segments is planned. The tool segments are currently used to manufacture body parts, including for the Audi A4. However, additive manufacturing should also support the construction of electric vehicles in the future.
The switch from traditional manufacturing processes to additive manufacturing offers numerous advantages for automobile manufacturers. An essential factor is the ability to produce tools internally. This not only significantly reduces delivery times, but also increases the flexibility, efficiency and individualization of the products be achieved. However, additive manufacturing can also be used, for example, to produce individual spare parts that are no longer produced in series today. In addition, 3D printing enables the integration of highly complex, component-specific cooling channels, which ensure more homogeneous cooling in the tools. This ensures shorter cycle times and ensures that the vehicle parts can be produced in excellent quality for series production. The EOS M 400 is used to manufacture tool segments with a length of up to 400 mm and a weight of up to 120 kg.
Matthias Herker, technical project manager at the Audi 3D printing center metal, commented: “From initial qualification by EOS to internal further development and refinement of the entire process chain through to standardization of a new production method, we are now reaping the fruits of years of development within Audi’s production organization. Whenever conventional manufacturing methods reach their limit, we use additive manufacturing – which lets us meet quality standards and comply with production times,”
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