NextGenAM (New Generation Additive Manufacturing) – Automated Metal 3D Printing Pilot Project Successfully

The NextGenAM (New Generation Additive Manufacturing) pilot project aims to develop a new generation of all-digital production lines that enable the production of aluminum components for the automotive and aerospace sectors with significantly higher cost-effectiveness than currently achievable. The “New Generation Additive Manufacturing” project has achieved some results: In terms of the overall production process of Premium AEROTEC, the manufacturing cost can be reduced by up to 50% compared to the existing 3D printing system.

• Premium AEROTEC, EOS and Daimler’s joint project demonstrates the potential for replacement parts production and component mass production

• Truck parts have begun to be additive manufacturing and are currently evaluating the potential to offer more 3D printed parts for both conventional and electric vehicles.

• Component manufacturing costs can be reduced by up to 50%

• Industry 4.0 in Farrell, Germany: fully automated production processes and continuous data links, all managed by the Control Center

• From data preparation to quality control, integrated, scalable process chain coverage

The NextGenAM (New Generation Additive Manufacturing) project was launched in May 2017 and is a pilot production line of a new generation of automated “additive manufacturing” processes jointly developed by partners Premium AEROTEC, EOS and Daimler. The project’s prospects have been optimistic since the beginning and have now been successful.

3D printing, also known as “additive manufacturing” (AM), is becoming more and more interesting as a supplement or alternative to traditional manufacturing techniques. It is called “additive material” because in the implementation of the technology, layers of material are superimposed and then solidified by energy. In addition to plastics and ceramics, 3D printing technology can also produce metal parts.

The pilot project aims to develop a new generation of all-digital production lines that will enable the production of aluminum components for the automotive and aerospace sectors with significantly higher cost-effectiveness than currently achievable. The “New Generation Additive Manufacturing” project has achieved some results: In terms of the overall production process of Premium AEROTEC, the manufacturing cost can be reduced by up to 50% compared to the existing 3D printing system.

“In the aircraft industry, Premium AEROTEC is a pioneer in the international metal 3D printing field. Our goal now is to continue to improve at this stage of professionalism and apply this technology to other industries.” Premium AEROTEC Executive Board Chairman Thomas Ehm “Therefore, the success of the ‘new generation additive manufacturing’ project is an important part of our strategy,” said the PhD.

NextGenAM pilot plant details for automated additive manufacturing, from left to right: band saw, Kuka robot; rear: 3D optical measurement system, job preparation station, demolition Package station; front: automatic guided vehicle (AGV), EOS M 400-4; not in the picture: EOS IPM M powder processing station (source: EOS)

Fully automated production

At the heart of the project is an original, scalable additive production chain. The production chain is fully automated until the printing components are mechanically sawn into the production platform – which means that from data preparation and central powder supply to the additive manufacturing process itself, including heat treatment, quality control and parts and production Steps such as platform separation do not require manual intervention at each stage. At the heart of the system is the EOS M 400-4 four-laser system for printing metallic materials, as well as the driverless transport system and robots in which the parts move smoothly at every stage of the production line.

The entire production process has no operators and is completely operated by the central autonomous control center because all the machines in the system are networked. The print data is transmitted to the control center, which prioritizes the various print requests and assigns them to the additive manufacturing system. During the printing process, the manufacturing status can be checked on the mobile device wherever it is. Once the entire production chain is completed, the quality report is sent back to the control center. All the data needed to reproduce a “twin” can be accessed here, so it is traceable.

Dr. Adrian Keppler, CEO of EOS, said: “We are very proud of the achievements of our partners in partnership with Premium AEROTEC and Daimler. The ‘New Generation Additive Manufacturing’ project demonstrates industrial 3D printing as an automated process chain. In part, how to use it efficiently at low cost in mass production. Combined with the possibility of digital production here, this pilot plant is undoubtedly a milestone on the road to digital manufacturing.”

The IPM M powder processing station L is EOS M 400-4 providing powder material in the early and middle stages of the construction process, ensuring that EOS M 400-4 has sufficient powder for production at any time (source: EOS)

Capacity will be further improved

The continuous 3D data link with integrated quality management makes this production system one of the first examples of future Industry 4.0 benchmarks. The manufacturing process is fully scalable: production lines can be easily replicated to increase plant capacity. As this number rises, it is expected that further savings will be made in the future. Today, pilot equipment has been able to automate the production of components and meet the quality standards for mass production.

The parts required by Daimler have been manufactured by Premium AEROTEC’s new technology line. For example, the truck department has used the truck diesel engine brackets produced by Premium AEROTEC as the first replacement parts.

Replacement parts for trucks and buses

The 3D printing process is very useful in the field of replacement parts. Because of the problem with the tool or for some infrequently used replacement parts, 3D printing can result in lower part production costs and higher efficiency than traditional sand or die casting processes. Currently, the 3D Printing Competence Center of Daimler Bus is reviewing the print request for the first 3D printed aluminum passenger car replacement parts. The analysis team in the passenger car sector is currently considering potential application possibilities for this technology.

The parts required by Daimler have been manufactured by Premium AEROTEC’s new technology line. For example, the truck department has used the truck diesel engine brackets produced by Premium AEROTEC as the first replacement parts. The picture shows the bracket of the truck diesel engine. (Source: Daimler)

Small parts mass production and opportunities for development

“Additive manufacturing is also suitable for the minimum mass production of new cars (limited editions). The systematic development of 3D printing-specific components means that production costs can be further reduced and quality can be continuously optimized.” Daimler’s future technology is responsible According to Jasmin Eichler, “3D printing has a special meaning in the development of automotive technology. Compared with traditional production processes, additive manufacturing can usually produce the required number of products more economically and quickly.”

3D printing is also suitable for internal combustion engine vehicles and electric vehicles, such as cooling circuit integrated substrates in which electric batteries are installed in electric vehicles.

High product quality

The pilot plant is based on high product quality: the aerospace and aerospace sectors also require the use of high-strength aluminum/magnesium/niobium alloys (also known as Scalmalloy®).

The classic material often used in the automotive industry is aluminum alloy (AlSi10Mg), and its performance is constantly improving in pilot projects. Material strength and finished quality have improved significantly compared to the beginning of the cooperation two years ago.

Looking to the future: 3D printing has a good prospect as a production method

All quality checks have been passed and the results are exciting, and the project is preparing for review based on industry standards in VDA 6.3. This is one of the prerequisites for Daimler to choose a 3D printing supplier for its batch production. In the future, automation of the entire additive manufacturing chain will enable greater mass production of parts that are identical in reliability, functionality, durability and economics to traditionally manufactured components. The components of the new car can be optimized for 3D printing during the design phase, giving you even more cost advantages. The lightweight advantages of 3D printing are also of particular interest to electric vehicles. For replacement parts, 3D printing “on-demand” production features can help save on storage costs. This vision Daimler is also known as “digital inventory”. In other words, centralized digital manufacturing data allows replacement parts to be used in 3D printing where they are dispersed and used to produce replacement parts.

Therefore, 3D printing is further developed in the automotive and aerospace fields as a complementary, versatile and relatively young production method.

Project partner

Premium AEROTEC is the world’s first component manufacturer to supply titanium 3D printed parts for Airbus aircraft production. The company is a global leader in aviation and its core business is the development and manufacture of aircraft structures made of metal and carbon fiber composites. The company has plants in Augsburg, Bremen, Nordenham and Farrell, Germany. Premium AEROTEC is responsible for the entire production process in the joint project.

EOS is a global technology leader in 3D printing for the metal and polymer materials industry. Founded in 1989, EOS is an independently operated company that provides a comprehensive additive manufacturing solution as a pioneer and innovator. EOS’ portfolio of solutions including systems, materials and process parameters helps customers build a decisive competitive advantage in product quality, achieve sustainable production and achieve long-term economic benefits. In the joint project, EOS is responsible for providing all 3D printing technologies and related software solutions, as well as control centers for connecting and managing the production chain.

Daimler contributed to the project’s experience in large-scale mass production. In this project, Daimler’s research department works closely with the senior development department, which includes parts samples, algorithm robustness and digitization of component data throughout the production process. Testing of parts samples and manufacturing specifications standardized for 3D printing are also the responsibility of the car manufacturer. In addition, it is responsible for monitoring verification and certification according to the standards for mass production in VDA 6.3.