Recently, we heard about a new partnership set to make waves in the automotive industry as Audi tapped EOS to work toward a “holistic approach for metal-based additive manufacturing.” The two German companies, each known as a leader in its respective field of focus, are coming together to focus on high-end solutions centered around additive manufacturing. The premium automobile maker will ultimately be set to operate its own AM solution as it implements technology and learns from the expertise of EOS, creating a new Ingolstadt-based 3D printing center.
Additive Minds, EOS’ consulting division, is taking the lead here in bringing Audi up to speed in metal AM. Certainly, the companies’ close geographic proximity played a part in easing the decision to work together, but the partnership goes much deeper. We’ve been seeing with increasing frequency the benefits that 3D printing technologies have to offer the automotive industry, and certainly Audi knows better than many manufacturers the promise that metal additive manufacturing in particular brings to the table. By seeing it now right from their own production floor, Audi will be well positioned to enhance their use of AM throughout the production cycle.
To tell us more about this relationship, as well as how 3D printing technology is coming further into focus in the automotive industry, we went straight to the source. I had A Few Questions For Dr. Stefan Bindl, team manager at the EOS Innovation Center, Additive Minds, and he was kind enough to fill us in on the particulars of this relationship, as well as his thoughts on the industry.
How did the partnership between EOS and Audi come to be? Besides geographical proximity, what major factors played into the decision to work together?
“Audi was an early adopter of additive manufacturing, using this technology for prototyping, tooling and in their motor sports division. With this announcement, Audi is further developing their investment in additive manufacturing, collaborating with EOS due to their reliability and deep expertise in additive manufacturing to press forward application and process development. Through EOS’ consultative division Additive Minds, they’ll provide end-to-end support around AM system, services and processes, while also focusing on increasing Audi’s internal engineer’s fluency tied to these solutions. EOS will ensure Audi can capitalize on AM to break design barriers for more cost-effective, lightweight designs that translate into a tangible competitive edge.”
When was Audi’s competence center for 3D printing established? What are its long- and short-term goals?
“Audi established the Competence Center for 3D Printing in November 2016 during an official inauguration event. The near-term goal is to centralize all additive manufacturing processes and capabilities at Audi. Long-term goals are centered on development, testing and qualification of part manufacturing for serial production.”
“EOS’ Additive Minds consultants began working directly with Audi engineers in November to develop the right application tailored to their needs and to understand how to implement AM at Audi headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany. EOS will serve as an ongoing partner to Audi at their facilities in Ingolstadt, growing the Audi AM team and identifying the next disruptive application for Audi.”
How do AM technologies benefit the automotive industry?
“The pace of innovation in the automotive industry often creates challenges for companies trying to keep up with evolving market demands that can require small-series production or an increasing demand for customization. That’s where AM comes in. AM enables part production without the need for tools that subtractive manufacturing requires, thereby cutting development costs, while also allowing for individualization and serial production. Using AM for rapid prototyping also means auto manufacturers can increase the efficiency of their research and development processes, decreasing go-to-market times. Other AM applications in the auto industry include: the ability to create lightweight designs for automaker to advance e-mobility, increased personalization awarded for luxury car segments, and finally, functional integration of automotive manufacturing and shorter lead times for tooling.”
What is the next step for this partnership?
“As a next step, EOS will work with Audi to optimize their 3D printing Competence Center, assisting the company’s efforts around using AM for tool making, casting and prototyping.”
Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share on this partnership, and/or how it reflects on the AM/auto industries?
“AM will open up many doors for companies like Audi who realize the possibilities of this innovative, leading-edge technology. In this case, Audi can achieve new feats in manufacturing with, for example, the creation of highly complex cooling channels, that were previously impossible due to the limits of conventional manufacturing. With a 20 percent reduction in the cycle time for these components, which in turn, positively impacts energy consumption and cost efficiency of the process, this partnership highlights the promise of AM in the auto industry and beyond.”
With Audi implementing these technologies, we are sure to see enhancements coming in future model years as autos from this company continue to live up to their world-class reputation. With the help from EOS and Additive Minds, the possibilities for additive manufacturing in automotive applications are broadening exponentially. As we continue to see the automotive and additive worlds converging, partnerships such as this one between EOS and Audi serve as harbingers of what is to come — literally driving the future forward. Discuss in the EOS forum at 3DPB.com.