Volkswagen is one of the world’s leading automotive groups. The company that makes everything from the Bugatti Chiron to the Polo with the Audi RS6 and Seat Ibiza in between. Over the past years, Volkswagen has a long with fellow German groups BWM and Mercedes parent Daimler has taken a lead in using 3D printing in manufacturing throughout the supply chain. Due to their proximity to both the German, Swedish and Dutch 3D printing innovation clusters and close association with the Frauenhofer frenemies of innovation institutes the German car manufacturers are light years ahead of Japanese, Korean and American counterparts. Partially a benefit of proximity and also a long-standing use of 3D printing in automotive racing the Germans have invested millions in evaluating and supporting the various metal and polymer 3D printing technologies. Recently BMW, BMW’s Mini Brand and others have been inching their way towards claiming publicly that they manufacture end-use parts using 3D printing. Based upon my research however it may be the home of the Bug and Golf that might be the furthest along with 3D printing. Not only on the shop floor but in my assessment Volkswagen is the furthest along with and has the most experience in making end-use parts on the car. Due to car manufacturers achieving considerable success with 3D Printing in car racing and inside the secretive world of car prototyping, 3D printing success has been more obscured than in the open. In most of the world, we see the pretend people using over claim and often straight up lies to make it look like they have more capability than they do. These lies are especially true in house printing and bioprinting where in house printing almost all of it is a sham and a more than healthy portion of the bioprinting is overly optimistic. In automotive we see the reverse where the people that are clueless are claiming a lot and the capable are in gamely ways alluding to some undefined capability. I believe that it will be a huge surprise to many to learn over the next years just how many tens of thousands of parts have already been made for passenger cars, trucks and vans.
This is why I was so excited to get contacted about the Volkswagen Challenge whereby the car company is crowdsourcing designs for the new Volkswagen Buzz. The Print your Buzz Challenge means that the company is soliciting ideas on parts of the Volkswagen Buzz. In the brief the company states that:
The automotive industry has identified 3D Printing as a major disruptive technology that uses both of these key drivers for future product and process design. 3D printing has opened a range of new possibilities in terms of product innovation. It allows the realization of new car designs, based on biomimicry/bionic geometries, making structures lighter and improving functional integration of car components (the implementation of a high number of functions into as few parts as possible).
Secondly, 3D printing revolutionises process innovation as it allows for customisation: production can be tailored for individual customers and parts can be produced around the world, wherever 3D printing infrastructure is available.
The Volkswagen I.D. Buzz is an electric minivan, first shown as a prototype at the 2017 North American International Auto Show. A ready-to-market vehicle based on this prototype is planned to be launched in 2022. Based on the potential of 3D technology, VW challenges you to create ideas for customizable and/or functional integrated 3D-printed interior and exterior elements of the VW ID Buzz that create added value for the customer through function, aesthetics and/or comfort.
They are looking for designs that can be any value adding idea that in the first stage can be a rendering but in the second stage will need to be 3D printed.
The goal of the project is to generate 3D printable ideas for products fitting the VW ID Buzz that will create added value for the customer through function, aesthetics, comfort and/or customizability.
Ideas should come from a customer-centric perspective. They should be based on possible customer needs and offer respective responses, thus adding value to the customers’ experience of the VW ID Buzz. Ideas can cover the interior, as well as the exterior of the ID Buzz. Also ideas in non-visible areas which might enhance the customer experience can be suggested.
1) Create a product idea that creates added value for the customer through:
- Aesthetics: Your idea delivers an aesthetic added value for the customer, e.g. personalization/customization.
- Comfort/ Ergonomics: your idea increases the comfort for one or all passengers.
- Function: your idea delivers a new or extended function with an effect for one or all passengers.
- Sustainability: your idea utilizes the production advantages of 3D printing to be material-, energy- and cost effective. Could it improve sustainability on other levels (user behavior, repairability…?)
- Customizability: your idea is an element that a customer can individualize fully or to a certain degree.
- Modularity: your idea can be used to easily vary a certain element in the ID Buzz like the mid-console.
2) Your product idea uses the advantages of 3D printing technology. Think about why your product should be/needs to be produced via 3D printing and not through traditional production channels and methods.
And the totally lovely sentence, “Don’t go too futuristic when thinking about needs. If you think about potential future customer needs they should be based on existing trends, like car sharing, autonomous driving and not on flying cars.” All in all an amazing brief for an amazing challenge. The participants can win a total of 27,300 Euros but as a design student I would totally configure a class assignment so that I can make it for class and also this challenge that way I will at no marginal cost to me complete my assignment and also get to enter into this potentially very prestigious competition that may let me 3D print parts for the Volkswagen ID Buzz.