AMS Spring 2023

BMW Buys Wire Arc Metal 3D Printer from MX3D

6K SmarTech

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Dutch wire arc additive manufacturing (WAAM) developer MX3D is perhaps most known for its 3D printing of a metal bridge spanning a canal in the Netherlands. However, the company is in the process of growing into an established 3D printer manufacturer. MX3D announced the sale of an M1 DED 3D printer to the BMW Group.

While MX3D has delivered several projects, including some for high-profile customers like the Takenaka Corporation, it only began commercializing its WAAM technology in earnest in 2021. The first system on the market was the M1. This includes an 8-axis ABB robot with Fronius GMAW/CMT welding machine and MX3D’s MetalXL WAAM workflow with MX3D Control System. Among the M1’s most unique features is the use of an industrial robotic arm to perform WAAM 3D printing. This allows for a great deal of flexibility in deposition area, enabling the deposition of low-cost metal feedstock as high speed almost in mid-air.

Now, the company has begun to move out of the service and demonstration phase and is making printers for clients. After selling an M1 to Shimoda Iron Works Co Ltd, BMW Group is now going to be installing one at its Additive Manufacturing Campus in Munich, Germany. The deal is the result of “a series of successful R&D projects” between BMW and MX3D.

“The BMW Group’s M1 acquisition shows that the founding mission of MX3D – to scale up and industrialize 3D metal printing, in order to make it available to high impact industries – is becoming a reality. Exciting!” said Gijs Van Der Velden, CEO of MX3D.

This is the latest 3D printing technology invested in by BMW, which has been a pioneer in automotive AM. After using AM in-house for years for prototyping and other applications, the company was the first to produce metal end parts for its racing car series Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters in 2010. The auto giant went on to manufacture custom name plates for MINIs, roof brackets for the i8, and more than 10,000 components for the Rolls Royce Phantom—ultimately 3D printing over one million parts by 2018.

The M1 metal 3D printer from MX3D. Image courtesy of MX3D.

This bullish attitude toward AM drove the company to establish its AM Campus and explore a variety of emerging technologies, from HP’s MultiJet Fusion and Metal Jet to a novel liquid 3D printing technology from Rapid Liquid Print. So, it’s no surprise, then, that BMW is exploring the use of WAAM as it attempts to industrialize 3D printing.

It’s possible that it could be a useful tool for prototyping large metal parts or it could serve some exotic application at the moment. BMW could even see the possibility of developing some sort of Divergent-style cell for robotic printing and assembly of WAAM metal parts. Whatever it is, we may not see the results of its M1 usage for years to come.

Images courtesy of MX3D.

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