The BMW Group made another investment in 2017: Start-up company Desktop Metal specializes in the additive manufacturing of metal parts and develops innovative and highly productive manufacturing processes. Here, too, there is close cooperation. In the same year, BMW i Ventures invested in the US start-up Xometry, the world's leading platform for on-demand manufacturing. Through a network of manufacturing companies, for example in the field of 3D printing, Xometry offers fast access to components.
The latest investment, the German startup ELISE, enables engineers to create a “component DNA” that includes all relevant technical data such as specs, manufacturing constraints, costs and possible optimization parameters. Based on this DNA, and using established development tools, ELISE automatically generates components.
In the pre-development area of the Additive Manufacturing Campus, new technologies and materials are optimized and prepared for widespread use throughout the company. The team is particularly concerned with the automation of process chains, which up to now have tied up a lot of manual work, in order to make 3D printing processes more economical and to enable large-scale production in the long term.
Research projects are of central importance in the industrialization of 3D printing processes. These include the joint projects "Industrialization and Digitization of Additive Manufacturing for Automobile Serial Processes (IDAM)" and "Integrated Line Application of Polymer-Based AM Technologies (POLYLINE for short)", which are funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
In the IDAM project, the BMW Group, together with twelve project partners, is laying the foundation for the integration of additive manufacturing into the series production environment of the automotive industry. In the Additive Manufacturing Campus, a production line is being set up that maps the entire process chain: from digital production preparation to the manufacture of components and post-processing. The targeted quantities clearly point in the direction of industrial large-scale production: In the future, the production line should be able to produce at least 50,000 series components per year and over 10,000 individual and spare parts in very high quality.
3D printed components are already being produced at almost all the company's production sites. The areas of application there also range from prototype parts and production aids to country-specific parts for customers. 3D printing makes it possible to produce the parts where they are needed - the manufacturing data is downloaded directly from the CAD computer to the machine tool, where the corresponding parts can be produced immediately without any costly conversion.