Audi takes additive manufacturing efforts up a gear with new EOS development partnership

Jan 25, 2017 | By Benedict

Car manufacturer Audi AG has started a development partnership with additive manufacturing specialist EOS that will see the latter providing additive systems and training to the former. Audi plans to 3D print tools, geometrically complex inserts for die casting molds, and more.

The EOS M 400 additive manufacturing system

Like most major car manufacturers, respected German automaker Audi has dabbled in additive manufacturing over the last few years, be it for the production of topologically optimized metal parts using SLM Solutions 3D printers, or for indulging in less serious activities like building a half-scale 1936 Auto Union Type C race car. Excitingly, a newly announced development partnership between the auto giant and fellow German company EOS could spark the ignition of a more comprehensive additive manufacturing strategy for Audi.

According to a press release, the EOS consulting division “Additive Minds” will be supporting Audi as it implements industrial 3D printing technology and develops a new 3D printing center in Ingolstadt, where the car manufacturer is headquartered. “The aim is to not only supply Audi with the right additive systems and processes but to also support them during applications development, when building up internal AM knowledge and training their engineers to become in-house AM experts,” said Güngör Kara, Director of Global Application and Consulting at EOS.

While the partnership is no doubt exciting news for the auto industry and fans of Audi’s distinctive vehicles, the new additive manufacturing facilities being implemented at Ingolstadt will not yet be used to make fully additive 3D printed cars. Instead, Audi will focus its early efforts on items such as 3D printed tools, with the company’s casting technical center also planning to make full use of the equipment, which “will make possible the production of [single-part] geometries that would have to be joined in conventional manufacturing.” Prototpyes and simple equipment, as well as small parts for motor sports vehicles, will be the first objects lined up for 3D printing.

“Audi was looking for a reliable development partner and has found that in EOS, which we are very happy about,” commented Dr. Stefan Bindl, Team Manager of the Innovation Center at Additive Minds, EOS. “The close cooperation concerning application and process development, as well as internal knowledge building, makes a significant contribution, which is why Audi can quickly achieve substantial gains for its own business by applying our technology.” Bindl added that the geographical nearness between Audi and EOS also proved helpful in establishing the partnership.

Could future versions of the Audi TT Roadster contain 3D printed parts?

Although EOS will be supplying the equipment and training for the Audi team at Ingolstadt, the car manufacturer will have to devote significant manpower in order to get acquainted with the new 3D printers. However, with its eye on the automotive future, in which additive manufacturing is sure to play an important part, committing bodies to the 3D printing cause is something that Audi is happy to do, and the company has even devoted a specific area of its premises to additive training.

“We have set up our own competence center for 3D printing in order to gain experience with the materials and the process, and to further develop them for series production,” explained Jörg Spindler, Head of Toolmaking at Audi. “With this technology we are able to integrate internal structures and functions in tools that we have not been able to create so far with conventional manufacturing methods. We can now quickly and economically produce lightweight components using this technology, especially in small batches.”

Other areas of interest for Audi include 3D printing inserts for die casting molds and hot working segments. According to the car manufacturer, it can improve series production by introducing 3D printed, component-specific conformal cooling channels throughout its molds. Because of the complexity of these channels, no other manufacturing method could be used to create them. Audi says the optimized cooling performance could lead to a reduction in production time by 20 percent, simultaneously producing a positive effect on the energy consumption and cost efficiency of the components.

With 3D printing becoming more important in the automotive industry, Audi might have found an incredibly valuable friend in EOS.

Posted in 3D Printer Company

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