15 May 2019


The 3D printing process, also known as "Additive Manufacturing" (AM), has become more and more interesting as a complementary or alternative process to conventional manufacturing techniques. Along with plastics and ceramics, it is also possible to produce metal components in a 3D printing process. The first part produced is a bracket for a truck diesel engine. Cost of manufacturing parts could be reduced by up to 50 percent.

What began as a promising vision in May 2017 has now reached a successful conclusion: the project "NextGenAM" will work on the development of a pilot production line for a next-generation automated AM process for partners Premium Aerotec, EOS and Daimler. The aim of the pilot project was to develop a digitalised next-generation manufacturing line which would be able to produce aluminium components for the automotive and aerospace sectors. The successful outcome of NextGenAM: manufacturing costs could be reduced by up to 50 percent compared with existing 3D printing systems.

The first requests for 3D-printed replacement bus parts in aluminium are currently being examined at the Centre of Competence for 3D printing at Daimler Buses. The analysis team in the passenger car area is also currently considering suitable potential applications.

The technical heart of the system is the EOS M 400-4 four-laser system for industrial 3D printing using metal materials. A driverless transport system and robots ensure the smooth movement of the parts through every stage of the production line. The entire production process runs itself, without operating personnel, from a central, autonomous control station. The manufacturing process is completely scalable: the production lines can simply be duplicated to extend the capacity of the plant.

Parts for Daimler are already being produced on the new technology line at Premium Aerotec: a bracket for a truck diesel engine.

Now that all the quality checks so far have been passed with such promising results, preparations are under way for an audit according to the requirements of the stringent industry standard VDA 6.3. This is one of the prerequisites at Daimler for the supply of series-production components by contract printing suppliers.

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