A component, module, or even a complete, one-piece vehicle body produced in one single production process! Impossible? Current advances in additive manufacturing have brought what still sounds like Utopia one step closer to reality! The industrial 3D print revolution has begun. Once consumer printers for € 1,000 have flooded the mar-ket, industrial applications will soon follow the consumer hype. Reason enough for EDAG, one of the leading engineering service providers in the automotive industry, to give an idea of the revolution that might well occur in the automotive industry, and assess the status quo of additive manufacturing processes from today's point of view.
At the EDAG stand in Geneva, the company will be presenting a futuristic vehicle sculpture "EDAG GENESIS", which, using the example of a body structure, is designed to demonstrate the revolutionary potential of additive manufacturing. Including bionic lightweight principles, topological optimisation and load-conforming design strategy!
In a roadmap, EDAG assesses promising technologies for the development and possible production of structural parts and modules in low-volume series.
Our exhibit, "EDAG GENESIS" can be seen as a symbol of the new freedoms that additive manufacturing processes will open up to designers and engineers in development and production.
Additive manufacturing will make it possible to come a great deal closer to the construction principles and strategies of nature. Developed functionally and evolutionarily into optimised structures from which man can learn. And the entire process is tool-free, resource-saving and eco-friendly.
"EDAG GENESIS" is based on the bionic patterns of a turtle, which has a shell that provides protection and cushioning and is part of the animal's bony structure.
The shell is similar to a sandwich component, with fine, inlying bone structures that give the shell its strength and stability. This concept is reflected in the exhibit.
In "EDAG GENESIS", the skeleton is more of a metaphor; it is there to ensure not mobility, but passenger safety. The framework calls to mind a naturally developed skeletal frame, the form and structure of which should make one thing perfectly clear: these organic structures cannot be built using conventional tools!
Generative manufacturing processes or additive manufacturing will leave rapid prototyping fields of application behind, and add a further, revolutionary dimension to classical manufacturing and structural design methods. The processes enable parts to be designed so that they are load-specific, multi-functional and bionic, while ensuring ideal wall thickness and outstanding material properties. Working directly from the data models, tool-free, highly flexible production is possible. Weldable metals and plastics developed to be suitable for specific applications will pave the way to future applications.
Our long-standing knowledge of production-oriented design is being revolutionised by new dimensions, and we need new approaches and development tools to be able to design bionically optimised solutions.
Future or Utopia? The EDAG analysis supplies the answers!
The immense potential of additive manufacturing inspired us to define and analyse the current status quo of the latest technologies, and then assess the extent to which it might be possible to use them in vehicle development and production. What process offers the best prospects for being able to produce structural parts with the required product properties in a single production step, without the use of tools?
Evolution in the speed and growth of construction volumes in additive manufacturing processes and corresponding automation engineering gives rise to expectations of a 100 to 1000-fold increase in productivity in the next 10 to 20 years. Combinations of hybrid structures with classical construction methods (sheet metal, cast metal, fibre composites, etc.) will bring about radical improvements in functional properties and efficiency.
A multi-disciplinary team of EDAG designers and specialists from the EDAG Competence Centre for Lightweight Construction took a close look at the potential of a number of promising processes, and discussed them with research and industrial experts. Possible candidates for the situation analysis of additive manufacturing were technologies such as selective laser sintering (SLS), selective laser melting (SLM), stereolithography (SLA), and fused deposition modelling (FDM).
In the assessment, a specially developed evaluation matrix was used to quantify the structural relevance of the technologies. How wide is the range of materials that can be used, and what degree of complexity and lot sizes are involved in producing structural parts? The processes were also assessed and classified with regard to part size, tolerance, ecological performance and manufacturing costs.
Apart from SLM, the generative process already industrially available today, with its portfolio of weldable metals and plastics, a refined FDM process also looks to be a promising candidate for the future-oriented subject of additive manufacturing.
Unlike other technologies, FDM makes it possible for components of almost any size to be produced, as there are no pre-determined space requirements to pose any restrictions. Instead, the structures are generated by having robots apply thermoplastic materials. Complex structures are built up layer by layer in an open space - without any tools or fixtures whatsoever.
It might even be possible to integrate semi-finished products using this method. Metallic SLM aside, most of the high-performance plastics used in additive manufacturing processes do not yet achieve the strength, stiffness and energy absorption values generally required in the industry. This is remedied in the FDM process by the parallel addition of an endless carbon fibre to the production process. One of the central characteristics of FDM is its potential for the incorporation of fibre reinforcements to systematically increase strength and stiffness.
Even though industrial usage of additive manufacturing processing is still in its infancy, the revolutionary advantages with regard to greater freedom in development and tool-free production make this technology a subject for the future. From today's point of view, the production of components, and in the next stage modules, is certainly feasible. As for the target of using additive manufacturing to produce complete vehicle bodies: there is still a long way to go before this becomes an industrial application, so for the time being, it remains a vision.
The development process chain, from performance specifications to topological analysis, function development, bionic design and production-oriented design, has not yet been established, and is still very time-consuming. Additive manufacturing processes have not yet been integrated into the established manufacturing process chain.
Decentralised manufacturing structures will help to bring about flexibility and efficiency in the future product evolution, which is far more than just spare parts manufacturing. Technical knowledge relating to the manufacturing and development process chains is not always pooled together. Tool-free, variant-compatible additive manufacturing might even also make it possible to produce small quantities of ultra-light, CO2-optimised vehicle designs that meet crash and load requirements (e.g. for NCAP or EU); these could be made with great precision for special markets, possibly even in an existing vehicle.
The EDAG development teams, competence centre for lightweight construction, and production specialists from EDAG Production Solutions will be keeping a close watch on the evolution of additive manufacturing.
New, bionic design options also help to reduce the weight of the plant technology, leading to energy savings in its production and operation: the tendency is towards lighter components, lighter tools, lighter clamping technology, smaller robots.
Additive manufacturing potential will considerably simplify the complexity of the press shop process and the layout of sub-assembly production. Function modules will be directly generated or systematically fitted with reinforcing elements, pressed parts will be structurally simplified, as complex structures will be implemented using the additive methods. As the additive technology requires very little in the way of fixtures, the production system will react with far greater tolerance to model changes, facelifts and customer-specific product modifications.
The target: to develop and present practicable and valid applications for use in component development and production. The first stage will be small structural parts; however, we intend to make a real contribution to the development of the revolutionary idea of additive manufacturing.
ONE COMPONENT – ONE MODULE – ONE BODY – ONE VISION
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