Daimler has announced the successful conclusion of the “NextGenAM” pilot project which was launched in 2017 in partnership with EOS and AEROTEC. The project aimed to develop a digitalised next-generation manufacturing line which would be able to produce aluminium components for the automotive and aerospace sectors significantly more cost-effectively than is currently possible. “NextGenAM” has demonstrated huge potential for the production of replacement parts and series-production components as manufacturing costs could be reduced by up to 50 percent compared with existing 3D printing systems.
The integrated, scalable additive production chain covers all steps from data preparation to quality assurance. It is fully automated right through to the point where the printed parts are mechanically sawn off the build platform which means that no manual work is now required at any stage of the process. Furthermore, the machines are networked, and the entire production process runs itself from a central control, autonomous station.
This 3D printing process is particularly useful in the replacement part sector since, in the event of a tool problem, infrequently required parts can often be reproduced more cost-effectively than with conventional sand or pressure casting processes. Furthermore, 3D printing is also eminently suitable, for instance, for the production of the integrated base plates that carry the cooling lines for the batteries in electric vehicles.
The automation of the entire AM production chain will in future make it possible to manufacture larger batches in series production – with the same reliability, functionality, durability and economic efficiency as conventionally manufactured components. Components for new vehicles can be optimised for 3D printing during the design phase, bringing the promise of further advantages in terms of cost.
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