Several automakers have discussed 3d printed car parts, but Volkswagen has said it will use them in mass-produced vehicles.Thanks to the faster and simpler process of printing metal parts, according to a recent statement from the automaker.
The "HP Metal Jet" was jointly developed by the printing company, VW and supplier GKN Powder Metallurgy.The three brands unveiled their new printing process at the international manufacturing technology show in Chicago.Volkswagen said it hopes to begin printing "structural components" for production cars within two to three years.
Like other forms of 3D printing, HP Metal Jet is an "additive" process, in which material is added layer-by-layer to form a part. In this case, the material is a metallic powder held together with a binder. In other forms of 3D printing, the material is melted by laser.However, a new process developed by vw and its partners has "baked" the material into a full part.
"A complete vehicle will probably not be manufactured by a 3D printer anytime soon, but the number and size of parts from the 3D printer will increase significantly," Martin Goede, VW head of technology planning and development, said in a statement. "Our goal is to integrate printed structural parts into the next generation of cars as soon as possible." "In the long term, we expect the number of units, component sizes and technical requirements to continue to increase, to more than 100,000 units per year."
Volkswagen also sees 3D printing as a way to personalize cars, something ford has discussed.Automakers explained that key fobs like personalized tailgate lettering, gearbars and personalized fobs can already be produced relatively easily. VW said it plans to offer these kinds of options to customers "as soon as possible."