VW and HP Moving Forward on Metal 3D Printing

3D printing is ready for the big time. Volkswagen is now using HP Metal Jet 3D printers to help build more parts, faster.

Automakers are faced with customers wanting more personalization options, while at the same time the company needs to reduce the complexity of the modern car, said VW Head of Technology Planning Dr Martin Goede. “That’s why we are relying on state-of-the-art technologies to ensure a smooth and fast production. 3D printing plays a particularly important role in manufacturing of individual parts.”

An average VW contains somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 parts. Until now, 3D printing was limited to only special limited production or prototype components. VW says that the new 3D Metal Jet technology lets them build a large number of 3D-printed parts for the first time. More importantly, they can do it using software drawings without building new tooling. That reduces the time required to make new parts. Volkswagen says that this is the first time for 3D printing to be ready for mass production.

VW is working with HP and GKN to develop series 3D printing production, and to add the ability to economically print individualized parts. Like a custom tailgate lettering or gear knob tailored for your hand, with your name on it.

The printer makes a part layer by layer using a binder, then is baked in a sintering process. That’s different from previous processes where a laser melted the powder to create a completed part.