BMW is one of the most well-known auto manufacturers in the industry, and they were also among the first to utilize 3D printing technology when it was introduced more than three decades ago. Back then, it was used primarily for prototyping and visualizing concepts in full 3D. Nowadays, BMW is using it to manufacture actual parts that are going into their automobiles.
The History of BMW’s Use of 3D Printing Technology
When BMW first started using 3D printing over 30 years ago, things were different. The technology back then, while sophisticated for its time, was relatively crude. At best, companies could use it for things like prototyping, which allowed them to visualize the way a component or entire automobile would look when it came off of the assembly line. Once the designers and engineers created a concept for an automobile, they could put the dimensions into a simple computer program and ask the printer to create a small-scale replica. This replica could then be used for everything from scrutinizing the car’s aesthetic appearance to testing its aerodynamics on a small scale.
The First 3D Printed Metal Auto Part
It’s possible to use 3D printing to create components out of a variety of materials, including plastic, polyester, metal, and more. Metal 3D printing is one of the latest technologies, and it’s only been around for about 10 years. In order to further demonstrate BMW’s dedication to cutting-edge technologies, they obtained a 3D printer that could create metal components for test vehicles early on. Its very first series 3D-printed part, a water pump wheel, was created in 2010. Since then, BMW has manufactured some 650 of them, and they are still used on their Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters racecars.
How BMW Uses 3D Printing Today
Since the company first started using 3D printing to improve the way it designed and made its cars, the technology has improved significantly. In fact, owners of the coveted Rolls-Royce Phantom, one of BMWs flagship automobiles, are driving a car with more than 10,000 parts that were manufactured by 3D printers. They’ve shown that they fully understand the potential of 3D printing and that they’re capable of using it to create better, safer, and more efficient automobiles.
Why BMW Chooses This Technology
Since the industrial revolution, manufacturers of everything from children’s toys to automobiles have looked for faster and more cost-effective ways to create high-quality products, and BMW is certainly no exception. Of course, their primary concern is quality. Over the years, engineers and designers found that manufacturing geometrically complex auto parts in traditional manufacturing facilities was very difficult – and very expensive since it required the design and development of molds and specialized equipment. 3D printing made the creation of those parts not only more affordable in the long run, but also more precise, which adds to overall quality.
BMW is also working with companies like Carbon, which specializes in a 3D printing process that takes only minutes, and HP, which offers impeccable precision along with fast print times and the ability to print in a variety of colors. If there’s a new technology around the corner, chances are good that BMW is on top of it and using it to create parts for new models.
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