3D printing has been making its way into our lives and industries. It has already improved the automotive industry’s manufacturing efforts pertinent to plastic. However, BMW’s latest investment clearly depicts that it has potential for more. BMW I Ventures, the automaker’s venture capital arm, has announced an investment in Desktop Metal, a startup that is dedicated to metal 3D printing. BMW wants to facilitate and expedite the rollout of this technology in its design and manufacturing departments.
Uwe Higgin, BMW i Ventures MP said, “Advances in metal 3D printing are driving innovation across a wide range of automotive applications.” 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process. What does that mean? It means that it creates layers of materials to create an object from a computer rendering. Owing to this, it is capable of quickly and quite efficiently create prototype or final pieces. This makes 3D printing crucial for companies that want to assess a part’s viability in the real world without having to spend on mold and then waiting while the piece takes shape.
Metal 3D printing is a bit different when compared to the plastic counterpart. It employs the use of a laser for melting layers of metallic powder together. The grains used are not bigger than half the diameter of a human hair. These printers are, therefore, capable of generating complex shapes in all sizes and can work with aluminum and steel. This approach also reduces the waste material drastically while allowing for environmental and financial benefits.
BMW’s interest sure has been piqued by metal 3D printing. Higgin said, “From rapid prototyping and printing exceptional quality parts for end-use production, to freedom of design and mass customization, Desktop Metal is shaping the way cars will be imaged, designed and manufactured.” Let’s see when this vision becomes a reality and how it affects the manufacturing process and cost.