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AUDI Uses Additive Manufacturing Technology from SLM Solutions

SLM Solutions Group AG has collaborated closely with AUDI AG for quite some time. The company uses the selective laser melting process to manufacture parts for prototypes, and spare parts are rarely requested. For example, the water adapters of the Audi W12 engine are manufactured on demand with the SLM 280.

"The metal-based additive manufacturing (AM) technology opens up new ways in the areas of development, design and production, and is now also systematically used in various areas of the automotive industry," said an SLM spokesperson. "The biggest advantage of this process is the realization of highly complex components, which cannot be produced with existing manufacturing processes or only at high costs. As a rule of thumb, the smaller, more complex and less cost-sensitive a component is, the more it is suitable for 3-D printing."

AUDI AG uses metal 3-D printing for special application areas. In exclusive series, the first components are already being manufactured using the additive SLM method, along with rarely requested original spare parts, for example the water adapter for the Audi W12 engine.

Alexander Schmid, After Sales Manager at AUDI AG, stated, "Manufacturing on demand is a vision for us to ensure supply with original spare parts, which are required less often, economically and sustainably into the future. Regional printing centers would simplify logistics and warehousing."

The SLM 280 series is designed to create high-quality metal parts based on 3-D CAD data. Measuring 280 mm x 280 mm x 365 mm, the machine provides one of the largest construction spaces in its class and features patented multi-beam technology. "The powerful 700 W lasers, which expose the build field during the build process via 3-D scan optics, shorten build times with increased productivity, high quality and safe powder handling," said the spokesperson.

Prototyping has already revolutionized the technology because a component can be transferred directly from design drawings into reality. Harald Eibisch in the Technology Development Department at AUDI AG, noted, "The new constructive freedoms provided by this technology are especially interesting. Components for prototypes and spare parts that are rarely requested are better suited for SLM processes than conventional manufacturing procedures due to the benefits of free geometric design. The load capacity of the components is comparable with parts manufactured using traditional methods. The water adapter of the W12 engine also shows that 3-D printing sets no limits in terms of loads. There is no direct disadvantage in the material properties, and even highly stressed parts such as pistons can be printed. Because material is applied layer by layer, users can specifically influence the microstructure, via which the mechanical properties differ significantly from conventionally produced components."

The research department noted the importance of 3-D printing. Ruben Heid in the Technology Development Department at AUDI AG, added, "The rule of thumb is, a component is suitable for 3-D printing when it is smaller, complex and not very cost-sensitive. The additive process provides us with plenty of leeway, for example, if a component is to handle additional functions such as cooling or current. The new procedure also provides benefits in weight reduction."

Ralf Frohwerk, Global Head of Business Development at SLM Solutions Group AG, said, "The trust of automobile manufacturers in metal-based 3-D printing is increasing daily. Due to a growing understanding of real and meaningful 3-D-suitable designing, previously unimaginable designs for vehicle parts are being created. Knowing that nearly every automaker also has vehicle programs with numbers of pieces under 2,000 - 3,000 units per year in its portfolio, there are also already aluminum die cast components today, for example, that can be produced more economically using additive processes."

For more information contact:

SLM Solutions NA, Inc.

48561 Alpha Drive, Suite 300

Wixom, MI 48393


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