Few companies in the world are doing more to implement AM production lines (and raise awareness around AM possibilities) than BMW Group. In the latest high-profile initiative, the POLYLINE project achieved to be the first successful implementation of an automated additive manufacturing production line for polymer parts at scale.
At the BMW Additive Manufacturing Campus, BMW, DyeMansion, EOS and Grenzebach – four partners of the consortium – achieved what they set out to do three years ago, when the project began: making real 3D printing serial production with high throughput a reality.
Dr. Blanka Szost-Ouk, Head of Additive Manufacturing, Predevelopment & Planning at BMW Group, commented: “The POLYLINE automated process chain fits into the next generation printers and our standard production requirements, is a system-agnostic solution due to their standardized interfaces. Which is crucial for scaling up Additive Manufacturing.”
The POLYLINE project brought together 15 industrial and research partners from Germany to develop a next-generation digitalized production line. This line has been used to produce plastic parts for the automotive industry. The aim was to complement conventional production techniques (e.g. machining, casting, etc.) with Additive Manufacturing (AM) in the form of high-throughput production line systems.
The project was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research with a total of €10.7 million. The project had a defined duration of three years. BMW, the premium automotive manufacturer, gave the POLYLINE project a home in its Additive Manufacturing Campus in Munich and has taken over the coordination of the different project partners.
A POLYLINE from end-to-end
EOS, the world’s leading technology provider in industrial 3D printing of metals and plastics, provided printing capabilities via its was its EOS P500 SLS system which was built for high automation and integration into existing production lines.
The level of automation and integration of the EOS P500 is different for each use case and can be adjusted specifically to each situation. In this case, the machine ensured the highest reliability, the highest level of homogeneity, repeatability, and reproducibility. “We have developed this at BMW for the automotive industry and we can now adopt and adjust it to other industries,” commented Fabian Krauß, Head of Polymer Systems at EOS.
As a specialist in the automation of industrial processes, Grenzebach contributed its expertise in the intelligent and safe networking of manufacturing processes to the project. “The main advantages of automation are to increase the productivity of the equipment, to reduce the downtime of the equipment, and to create a safe work environment for the employees”, specified Oliver Elbert, Head of Additive Manufacturing at Grenzebach.
In the POLYLINE project, this included the Exchange P500/4 solution, which is placed directly at the printer and automatically replaces the exchange frame and cools the build jobs in the buffer stations, the automated transport of the exchange frame to the next stations with the secure transport container and an automated guided vehicle (AGV), and the robotic cell with KLT handling and bin-picking robots for further processing and sorting of components. In addition, the joint development of automated hardware and software interfaces suitable for industrial use in all process stations was a central component of the Grenzebach work package.
DyeMansion, the global leader in post-processing solutions for industrial polymer 3D printing, was responsible for delivering the right look and feel for the final application – so all areas of post-processing: cleaning, surfacing, and coloring. DyeMansion’s processes are completely traceable, ensuring consistent quality. The Powershot DUAL Performance fulfills all requirements for physical automation, so it can run batch after batch continuously without the need for an operator to be present. “The successful POLYLINE project shows that an end-to-end automated factory is possible with 3D printing – and this is just the beginning”, said Philipp Kramer, CTO and Co-founder of DyeMansion.