BMW Group has reached a big milestone in its use of additive manufacturing. According to the company, it has produced over a million parts with 3D printing over the past decade. By the end of this year alone it expects to reach more than 200,000 3D printed parts, marking a 42% increase over last year’s total.
The millionth part printed by the automaker was a window guide rail for the BMW i8 Roadster, a series production component. The part, developed by the company’s Additive Manufacturing Center in Munich, reportedly took just five days to develop before being integrated into series production at BMW’s facility in Leipzig.
Fitted into the door of the i8 Roadster, the 3D printed window guide rail enables the vehicle’s window to operate smoothly. The window guide rail was produced using HP’s Multi Jet Fusion Technology. The AM platform is reportedly capable of producing up to 100 window guide rails in just 24 hours.
“The use of components made by additive manufacturing in series production of vehicles is increasing particularly strongly at the moment,” commented Dr. Jens Ertel, Director of the BMW Group Additive Manufacturing Center. “We are following the development and application of advanced these manufacturing methods very closely indeed, partly through longstanding cooperations with leading manufacturers in the field. At the same time, we are engaging in targeted technology scouting and evaluating innovative production systems.”
In addition to the 3D printed window guide rail, the i8 Roadster also integrates a 3D printed fixture for the soft-top attachment. This part, also produced at the Additive Manufacturing Center, is made from an aluminum alloy and was the first 3D printed part to be integrated into the series production of the vehicle. Notably, the metal fixture weighs less than its injection molded plastic counterpart and demonstrates better stiffness. The part was given an Altair Enlighten Award in the Modules category this year.
In March of this year, BMW announced it was preparing to launch a lean series production for the i8 Roadster and that eventually it plans to up the number of 3D printed parts in the vehicle to several thousand.
The company has also integrated additive manufacturing into the production of customized elements for its MINI vehicles, specifically through its MINI Yours customized product initiative. Using an online configurator, customers can personalize indicator inlays, dashboard trim trips and other small features of their MINIs thanks to 3D printing.