Tech Focus: Additive Manufacturing BMW Group drives the industrialisation of 3D printing

Editor: Nicole Kareta

The BMW Group is taking the next step in the systematic integration of industrial 3D printing processes.

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Since the middle of this year, the BMW Group has been producing additive-manufactured vehicle components in metal and plastic for the new Rolls-Royce Ghost.
Since the middle of this year, the BMW Group has been producing additive-manufactured vehicle components in metal and plastic for the new Rolls-Royce Ghost.
(Source: BMW Group)

With the systematic integration of industrial 3D printing processes, the BMW Group intends to fully exploit the advantages of the technology — such as the rapid availability of components, flexibility in design and production without the need for complex tools. Daniel Schäfer, Head of Production Integration and Pilot Plant at the BMW Group: “Processes such as additive manufacturing help us to shorten development cycles and thus bring our vehicles to production readiness more quickly. 3D printing also shortens component production times, while meeting high quality standards.”

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3D-printed components for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

Since the middle of this year, the BMW Group has been producing additive-manufactured vehicle components in metal and plastic for the new Rolls-Royce Ghost. These are manufactured along the process chain at various locations in the global production network and are then assembled in Goodwood, the British town where the exclusive automobile was born. The company will install several hundred thousand additive-manufactured parts in the Rolls-Royce Ghost over the model life of the car.

The components are located in the body of the car as well as in the passenger compartment and exhibit a high degree of functionality and rigidity. The BMW Group has prepared the processes for manufacturing the components in its in-house competence center, the Additive Manufacturing Campus, for use in automotive series production. The plastic components are also manufactured there using the Multi Jet Fusion process and selective laser sintering.

At the BMW Group plant in Landshut, Germany, the metallic components are currently manufactured using the selective laser beam melting process. Not far away, at the BMW Group plant in Dingolfing, more than 300 experienced employees manufacture the individual bodies of Rolls-Royce automobiles, including the new Rolls-Royce Ghost. Since the year 2000 and the start of production of the BMW Z8, high-quality aluminium bodies have been manufactured there.

The 3D-printed metal components are installed almost fully automated in the production process. The assembly of the plastic components produced in the Additive Manufacturing Campus and the metallic carrier of the decorative trim panel will later take place in the so-called Woodshop and the assembly of the Goodwood plant.

Component development using generative design

Even in the early stages of the development of the new Rolls-Royce Ghost, engineers, manufacturing and materials experts analysed hundreds of components and tested the extent to which production using additive manufacturing processes was feasible. The focus was on weight and geometry advantages over traditional processes and the economic benefits. In selecting suitable components for additive series production, the experts defined criteria and requirements for 3D-printed components and translated them into “machine language” with the help of data scientists. This was the start of a new AI system that enables the BMW Group to identify potential 3D-printed components in future vehicles faster and earlier.

The use of generative design, the design of components with the help of computer algorithms, enables forms that were previously difficult for engineers and designers to implement to be created in a short time. Experts and computers work together to design the components in such a way that they can be manufactured with an optimal use of materials.

Numerous potential applications can only be turned into reality with the help of generative design. 3D printing technologies are particularly suitable for complex shapes and structures that could not previously be produced with conventional tools.

Topology-optimised components have been created for the Rolls-Royce Ghost, i.e. parts that have been significantly improved in terms of form and function as a result of this design approach. On average, these components weigh almost 50 % less than comparable, traditionally produced parts. In addition, they can make optimum use of the available installation space in the vehicle. One example of this is the bracket for the damper of the tailgate.

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