Volkswagen has begun certifying prototype 3D-printed structural components, with the aim of producing 100,000 parts annually by 2025.
VW is teaming with Siemens and HP to industrialize 3D printing of structural parts, which can be significantly lighter than equivalent components made of sheet steel.
The automaker will use an additive process known as binder jetting to make the components at its main plant in Wolfsburg, Germany. HP is providing the printers and Siemens will supply the manufacturing software.
The automaker said in 2018 that it wanted to begin mass production of 3D-printed parts, starting with nonstructural elements such as license frames.
In binder jetting, a liquid binder is sprayed onto a bed of powder, solidifying the cross section of the component, building it up layer by layer.
The component is typically designed using computer-aided design, or CAD, software before being sent to the 3D printer.
3D-printed components for the windshield pillar in the Volkswagen T-Roc convertible are already being certified at the company's plant in Osnabrueck, Germany.
Weight reduction is a key advantage of the process, as the components weigh less than half as much as conventional parts made from sheet steel. While VW has done crash testing of 3D components in the past, the process was not cost effective until now, a company release said.
Through an optimization process called nesting, VW says it has figured out how to double the number of parts per print session.
Volkswagen plans to use this venture to further develop expertise in 3D printing of components and see what additional elements can be produced through this process.