Volkswagen has opened a highly advanced 3D printing centre in its factory in Wolfsburg. It will use an innovative binder jetting process which sets new standards for speed, flexibility and automation.
The mobility of the future will be characterized by cars produced in an increasingly efficient, precise and innovative manner. This is why the Volkswagen Toolmaking Unit has inaugurated a cutting-edge 3D printing centre in its Wolfsburg plant, bringing next-generation 3D printers to the Group. Developed alongside HP and based on the binder jetting process, they will allow production of highly complex automotive components in a fast, flexible and automated manner.
“The 3D printing center takes Volkswagen’s additive manufacturing activities to a new level. In two to three years’ time, three-dimensional printing will also become interesting for the first production parts. In the future, we may be able to use 3D printers directly on the production line for vehicle production”, said Dr. Andreas Tostmann, Board Member for Production of the Volkswagen brand.
Binder jetting makes metallic 3D printing much easier and faster, and supplements the previous selective laser melting (SLM) process. At the 3D printing center, which has a floor space of 3,100 m², toolmakers, planners and research team members cooperate closely on the development of new products and processes. “Here, we have created an innovative center which will be of tremendous strategic importance for Volkswagen in the future”, stated the Head of Additive Manufacturing, Oliver Pohl.
To date, the Volkswagen Group has mainly used the SLM process for 3D printing with metals. In this process, the material used is applied to a base plate in a thin layer. A laser beam then melts the powder at the points where the component is to be created. The molten powder hardens, forming a solid material layer. In binder jetting 3D printing processes, on the other hand, components are manufactured using a metal powder and a binder applied in layers. The metal part which has been printed is then “baked” in a sintering process, which turns the powder into a compact material. In future, the various processes will supplement each other to obtain the best possible results.