VW to Team with HP on 3D-Printed Production Parts

September 13, 2018 at 11:53 AM

Volkswagen AG says it will begin using 3D-printed parts in production vehicles early next decade.

The carmaker is partnering on the program with Hewlett-Packard Co. and GKN plc’s powder metallurgy unit. The companies announced the plan this week at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago.

HP claims its Metal Jet process is as much as 50 times more efficient than other 3D-printing methods. VW is the first carmaker to commit to using HP’s technology for a production part.

Like other 3D-printing companies, HP uses an additive process in which parts are produced by building up thousands of layers of ultra-thin powder. The part is solidified with a sintering process rather than using a laser to melt the powder as is done by some 3D-printing competitors.

VW and GKN plan to refine the technique in limited-production applications for small parts, starting as early as next year. This includes tailgate lettering, gear knobs and keys with personalized lettering.

The companies aim to mass-produce structural components within three years. VW describes such as applications as soccer ball-sized parts produced at an annual rate of more than 100,000 units.

VW’s Bugatti unit, which is partnering with Hamburg-based Laser Zentrum Nord, is using a 3D-printed titanium brake caliper in its just-launched Chiron supercar. BMW, Ford and other carmakers also are developing 3D-printed parts.