Home Industry BWM Group Celebrates 25 Years of 3D Printing

BWM Group Celebrates 25 Years of 3D Printing

German automotive company BMW is currently celebrating the 25th anniversary of the introduction of additive manufacturing. Today 3D printing is applied in many different areas at the BMW Group.

Dr. Udo Haenle, Head of Production Strategy, Technical Integration and Pilot Plant, explains: “Components made with additive manufacturing give us a lot of freedom in the forming process; they can be produced both quickly and in appropriate quality. We see major potential for the future application in series production as well as for new customer offerings, such as personalized vehicle parts, or the spare parts supply.”

It was in the early 1990, that BMW Group’s Rapid Technologies Center commissioned the development of the first facilities. From the following year on, the first prototype parts were produced on the company’s own stereolithography machine, mostly used for concept cars. As the technology developed further, it was applied for additional purposes and today different methods and materials are used at BMW, most commonly in areas that frequently require small batches of customised and sometimes also very complex components, such as pre-development, vehicle validation and testing as well as concept cars. Additionally, toolmaking and operating resources are main application areas, but also for completely new vehicles, such as the BMW i models, that come without predecessors, the company relies on the technology for creating initial prototypes.


Last year, the BMW Group introduced a 3D printed ergonomic tool in the vehicle assembly that protects workers against excess strains on the thumb joints while carrying out certain assembly activities. Each of these flexible assembly devices is a single piece, customized to match the form and size of a specific worker’s hand.

3D printed metal parts are being used in small series production and for several years now, the DTM race cars are equipped with 3D printed water pump wheels. A few month ago, the company announced the 500th wheel produced using additive manufacturing technologies.

The team of the Rapid Technologies Center at the BMW Group’s Research and Innovation Center (FIZ) in Munich works on close to 25,000 prototype requests annually, producing some 100,000 components a year for in-house customers. Parts range from small plastic carriers to design samples and chassis components for functional tests. Depending on the procedure and the size of the component, sample parts might be available within only a few days.

Dr. Haenle adds: “The targeted use of innovative additive procedures at an early stage has made us one of the pioneers and leaders in 3D printing over the past years. At the BMW Group Technology Office in Mountain View, Silicon Valley/USA, we are now even conducting a first test run with the new CLIP (Continuous Liquid Interface Production) technology.”

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