In the most unlikely of alliances, Volkswagen is working with Hewlett Packard in developing new 3D printed metal parts. If the venture is successful then VW could introduce 3D printing as a standard part of its manufacturing process.
HP has already developed a “Metal Jet” 3D printing machine, it’s being used by GKN, a UK based engineering firm to make 3D printed parts.
Using the metal printer GKN is already producing 3D printed parts for Volkswagen. The HP Metal Print uses a new method to form the parts.
As with current 3D printing, objects are made up in thin layers. HP’s Metal Print uses the same fundamental process.
However, a metal powder and additive are used during the layering process. Usually, sand is used as the binder. We do not know what the additive actually consists of.
The completed component is then baked in an oven where the temperatures forge the materials into a finished metal part.
This process is said to be 50 times more efficient than current metal 3D printing solutions. It still requires a bit of fine tuning, and production is limited depending on the size of the component.
This new 3D printing technique will eventually pave the way for production on a mass scale.
However, for now, production of 3D printed parts is limited to VW branded vanity objects such as key rings and nameplates.
Structurally formed 3D printed parts are said to be around 3-5 years away before the technology is scaled to use in mass production.
For large parts and components, current manufacturing techniques are still the best and most economical way to manufacture.