3D metal printer enables more efficient and lighter components

September 09, 2018 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Components for commercial vehicles such as excavators, trucks or forklifts should be as light as possible, yet stable and durable. At the Technische Universität Kaiserslautern (Germany) engineers rely on a 3D metal printer with which they can produce components in one piece. This technology permits to produce more filigree and lighter parts than with conventional processes.

The engineers around Roman Teutsch from Technische Universität Kaiserslautern (TUK) use additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing) to develop components for commercial vehicles. The advantage of this technology: The products can be designed in such a way that they are light yet sturdy and stable. “Such processes are of particular interest to the automotive industry,” says Teutsch, who leads the TUK’s Institute for Mechanical and Automotive Design. “Numerous components used in safety-relevant areas are subject to strict specifications. They must last throughout the life of the vehicle.”

The 3D printer used at the institute has a relatively large design space of 27.5 x 27.5 x 42 centimetres, so that researchers can also produce larger components in one piece. With this technology the researchers can produce highly complex parts such as filigree lattice structures. It also simplifies the process for engineers to consider design improvements; for example, when it comes to design structures, optimised to the load path.

The work of Teutsch’s research group has been inspired by nature itself. Examples are leaf veins of many plants, which form a supporting structure, or the way branch forks are shaped. Today's technology makes it easier to produce such bionic forms. This is interesting for engineers because it makes it possible to design more efficient components. In addition, this technology is suitable for the production of spare parts, for example if the tools of the original component are worn out.

At the IAA Commercial Vehicles trade fair later this September, the researchers will be presenting various exhibits that they have created using 3D printing and which are intended to provide inspiration for the (commercial) vehicle industry. (Hall 13, Stand A28)

Related articles:

Daimler tests 3D printing for series production

4D printing of ceramic structures developed

3D printing of metals: New alloy enables printing of safe steel products


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