Thanks to a partnership with Loramendi and voxeljet, BMW’s Landshut plant now has the ability to automatically 3D print large-scale sand cores for casting cylinder heads for high-efficiency engines. The new process is both a significant milestone for voxeljet (Nasdaq: VJET) as it expands its work with the world’s largest automakers and for BMW, which is increasingly automating its additive manufacturing (AM) operations.
In May 2022, BMW announced the completion of the Industrialization and Digitalization of Additive Manufacturing (IDAM) project, which enabled the automated printing, finishing, and conveyancing of parts made with metal laser powder bed fusion (LPBF). This latest Industrialization of Core Printing (ICP) project applies a similar approach to sand core 3D printing, used for casting cylinders for the BMW B48 engine.
AM was the fabrication method of choice for the automaker, due to the ability to optimize cylinder head design, improve engine efficiency, and reduce consumption. However, 3D printing sand cores requires various labor-intensive steps, including raw material preparation and recycling before printing and drying, removal and cleaning of the printed parts after the job is complete. To streamline the process, the partners developed an automated production line, featuring voxeljet’s VX1300-X printer and Loramendi’s Microwave-Curing.
Loramendi and voxeljet began developing the ICP setup in 2019, along with ASK Chemicals, which developed a binder that would limit post-processing of sand cores. The line consists of automated jobbox unpacking and curing stations. Afterwards robotic arms automatically finish and remove 3D printed sand cores from the jobboxes for final casting. With the new setup, the BMW Landshut plant is able to produce thousands of 3D printed cores per week.
While this represents another step in automation for BMW’s production of metal parts with 3D printing, it also builds on voxeljet’s continued success in the automotive space. The German company’s U.S. customer, Tooling & Equipment International, is 3D printing sand cores for the series production of large-format, weight-saving structural components for Cadillac’s CELESTIQ vehicle, a limited series luxury car estimated to cost $300,000.
Due to the niche applications of its technology, voxeljet stock seems to have struggled ever since it listed last decade. Now that large scale sand core 3D printing is being adopted by major car manufacturers for series production, it could rebound, but I envision the company being acquired, possibly by Desktop Metal.
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