With the 3D printing of plastic parts rapidly on the rise in the auto industry, BMW is seeking to develop the ability to 3D print metal parts for production. According to Uwe Higgin of BMW Ventures, “advances in metal 3D printing are driving innovation across a wide range of automotive applications.” This provides some substance for the company’s recent investment in Desktop Metal, a company dedicated solely to 3D printing metal objects. BMW hopes to boost the growth rate of this 3D printing technique in its design and manufacturing sectors. If they are able to succeed in this, they would become the first automaker to bring these parts to production.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, prints multiple layers to create a whole object based off of a CAD file. It is exceptionally time and cost-efficient in producing prototypes. In the auto industry today, 3D printed plastic parts are used in essentially every vehicle. However, BMW is showing that 3D printing has much more to offer to the industry than just plastic parts and prototypes. Metal 3D printing has the potential to reshape production methods for automakers. It would cut their costs and production time dramatically and reap environmental benefits by reducing the amount of waste materials in production. Metal 3D printing could provide automobile companies with a freedom of creativity and design never before possible because of its ability to create complex shapes that are not achievable via traditional manufacturing methods BMW isn’t the only automaker investing in the metal 3D printing industry either, various other companies across the world, including fellow German automaker Audi, are pushing to advance this innovation to its full potential. The future of metal 3D printing is filled with potential, as the premature technique begins to flourish.