As additive manufacturing continues to accelerate innovation, many leading automotive companies have applied the technology to their production workflows. The BMW Group is one of the first companies to introduce 3D plastics and metal parts.
Last week, the BMW Group announced that it had just installed the 1 millionth 3D printing unit in its series: the new BMW i8 Roadster window rail, a stylish open-top hybrid performance car. This part is located in the door area to help the window run smoothly.
The BMW Group has been using HP Multi Jet Fusion technology to produce a range of window guides. The high-speed 3D printing process developed by HP enables automotive companies to produce up to 100 window rails in 24 hours.
The part was developed and 3D printed in a luxury car manufacturer additive manufacturing center in Munich, Germany, in only five days. Earlier this year, BMW also opened a nearby additive manufacturing park, a state-of-the-art facility that will provide BMW with a place to further develop its expertise in 3D printing technology.
BMW Group celebrates 3D printing decade at a price of one in a million
While the production of 1 million 3D printed end-use parts is undoubtedly worth celebrating, BMW has become accustomed to using additive manufacturing. In fact, the window rails are not even the first 3D printing components implemented in the BMW i8 Roadster.
Prior to this, the company used 3D printing technology to produce fixtures for the soft top attachments of convertibles. This metal 3D printing component is made of aluminum alloy and weighs less than the previously used injection molded parts while also providing increased stiffness. The luminaire recently received the Altair Enlighten Award for the module category.
Other examples of how BMW uses 3D printing include working with BMW to develop "liquid printing pneumatics" for inflatable interiors and sensor concept vehicles with 3D printed grids. Most importantly, BMW Motorsport MINI recently launched MINI Yours Customized, an internal 3D printing service that allows customers to design custom interiors and exteriors for their cars. Last year, the German auto giant invested in the groundbreaking metal 3D printing startup Desktop Metal.
This year alone, BMW is expected to reach more than 200,000 3D printed components, a 42% increase from last year's production. Moreover, as the additive manufacturing park is about to begin, the automaker will soon be able to approach the next milestone of 2 million 3D printed parts.