3D printing has been used for prototyping in automotive applications, as well as printing auto parts and even entire cars. In order to demonstrate just how flexible this manufacturing technology is, a consortium of 3D printing companies has rebuilt part of an existing vehicle using additive manufacturing.
Altair, APWORKS, csi entwicklungstechnik, EOS GmbH, GERG, and Heraeus teamed up to retrofit a Volkswagen Caddy with a new 3D-printed front end. The project (which is part of the 3i-PRINT initiative) resulted in a light structure that is highly integrated into the existing vehicle.
3i-PRINT was formed to demonstrate the potential for 3D printing in industrial manufacturing. In this case, the companies involved created a complex vehicle structure that was much lighter than a traditionally built structure, and one that incorporated fewer parts and components.
Load-bearing structures in the printed front end include active and passive cooling channels, as well as features that can be used for safety and fluid storage.
Engineers at csi entwicklungstechnik spearheaded the design, development and building of the structure. GERG was responsible for connecting the printed components and creating the final frame. The company’s used Altair’s software to design, optimize, simulate, and develop the structure.
Following the simulation, Airbus subsidiary APWORKS handled final dimensioning of the components for printing and the additive manufacturing of the structural elements.
The company used an EOS M400 printing system and Scalmalloy aluminum alloy from Heraeus to manufacturing the components.
“We are proud to present the Caddy with an exemplary new additively manufactured front end structure,” said Stefan Herrmann, engineer at csi. “The new structure and the contrast between old and new impressively demonstrates the potential that 3D printing and functional integration offer, particularly for the automotive industry. I would also like to emphasize the agile, time-efficient route from the initial idea to the fully converted vehicle, which was completed within only nine months. Each of the participating companies is a leader in its field. The outstanding collaboration and combined expertise has made the 3i-PRINT project a resounding success.”