In May 2017, Daimler, Aerotec and Eos launched a pilot project under the label NextGenAM in order to develop a system for the automated 3D printing of metal components. The success of the now completed project reveals great potential for the production of spare parts and mass-produced components in the automotive and aircraft industries: 3D printing of aluminum components costs up to 50% less thanks to the digitized production line.
Here, the fully automated procedure covers the entire process chain, from supply of the aluminum powder through to printing, right up until the heat treatment, quality assurance and separation of the finished items from the mounting plate. Manual tasks become superfluous: Parts are transported by driverless systems and robots, all of the machines employed are networked with one another. The quality reports also provide the basis for creating digital twins of the workpieces, which enable complete traceability. The first truck components have already been produced for Daimler using this technique, parts for conventional automobiles and e-cars are undergoing tests.
BMW is also currently working with several partners on a research project for automating 3D printing in series production.