Can additive manufacturing play an integral role in large-scale manufacturing, such as automotive? Additive vendors and industrial users continue to explore this question.
A key value proposition of additive manufacturing in automotive engineering involves structural mechanics and lightweight construction. Such functional integration—implementing as many technical features as possible with as few components as possible—is an advantage that makes the use of 3D printing lucrative for the automotive industry. A recent example is the Caddy concept, a joint development within the 3i-PRINT project that aims to demonstrate future technological possibilities.
The Caddy concept involves Altair, APWORKS, csi entwicklungstechnik, EOS GmbH, GERG, and Heraeus. These companies plan to demonstrate the full potential of industrial additive manufacturing through the front-end structure of a classic VW Caddy.
The front-end structure is light, stable, and, at the same time, features a high degree of functional integration. The involved companies covered every development step of the process, from design, simulation, optimization and manufacturing to post production of the part. The project was completed in nine months.
Organic design for load-bearing structures
When designing the front-end, the goals were to manage heat from the electronics, and reduce weight and space needs. The structure also needed to meet safety and comfort requirements.
Parts of the additively manufactured front are load-bearing structures that include details for both active and passive cooling – for example the inclusion of a channeled airflow to cool batteries and brake systems. In addition, functions linked to heat management, passive safety, and fluids storage were integrated in the organic, load-driven design of the front-end module. In addition, the fountain solution tank was integrated into the front-end structure based on topology optimization analysis.
Combined expertise along the process chain
With these goals in mind, the experts at csi entwicklungstechnik began designing, developing, and building the front end structure. The company develops high-quality modules for vehicle bodies, interiors, and exteriors for both manufacturers and suppliers in the automotive sector.
GERG handles prototyping and small-scale series for the automotive and aerospace industries. In this project GERG was responsible for connecting the additively manufactured components and the creation of the final frame.
Altair develops simulation technology to synthesize and optimize designs and processes. Its software solutions was used to design, optimize, simulate, and develop the structure.
After the successful simulation and design of the concept, APWORKS took care of the final dimensioning of the components for 3D printing. APWORKS contributed its knowledge of print preparation and handled the actual additive manufacturing of the structural elements.
When printing the front end, APWORKS relied on a system developed by EOS, a leading technology supplier in the field of industrial 3D printing of metals and polymers.
Metal powder specialist Heraeus supplied and qualified the high-strength aluminum alloy Scalmalloy, developed by APWORKS, to manufacture the components. APWORKS provided support for the printing process by developing the printing parameter sets for the EOS M 400 system.
The 3i-PRINT project, a forum for innovative prototype concepts
Initiated by csi entwicklungstechnik, the 3i-PRINT project acts as an agile engineering platform for research and development enabling innovative prototype concepts. The project’s goal is to demonstrate and fully exploit the potential of state-of-the-art manufacturing methods. The 3i-PRINT project is an open platform for collaboration that quickly enables the implementation of new ideas.
Stefan Herrmann, responsible for light-weight design within the body at csi, said: “We are proud to present the Caddy with an exemplary new additively manufactured front end structure. The new structure and the contrast between old and new impressively demonstrates the potential that 3D printing and functional integration offer, particularly for the automotive industry.”
For more information visit: www.3i-print.com.