Additive Manufacturing with Laser Metal Deposition in Automotive Applications
The Additive Manufacturing Center at the BMW Group’s Research and Innovation Center (FIZ) in Munich handles close to 25,000 prototype requests for over 100,000 components every 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 are available within only a few days. Besides the typical AM technologies like FDM, SLA, Polyjet, SLS and SLM the machinery of the Additive Manufacturing Center includes the LMD (Laser Metal Deposition) technology. The main application of this process at the BMW Group is in modifying existing components and not in building up whole parts. In the geometrical and functional validation processes, modified prototypes can be provided in a very short time without using new prototyping tools. Regarding the applications in series production, existing parts can be scaled up for higher stresses by using this AM Technology. In order to enhance the profitability of these use-cases a reduction of costs per part is necessary. Increasing the deposition rates and investing in low-priced machinery systems is the first step to reach this goal. The use of wire-based Arc Welding Technology can be a further step in decreasing the costs per part and moreover offers specific technological advantages. The current research focuses on the achievable mechanical properties and microstructure of aluminium alloys by cladding with high deposition rates as well as the reproducibility and stability of the processes in the automotive environment. Furthermore the industrialization of these applications requires a meaningful integration in the process chain und machinery with high automatization and high productivity.
Alexander Fickerl studied mechanical engineering at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. As a student assistant at the Institute of Polymer Technology (LKT) he made first contact with Additive Manufacturing Technologies. After finishing his master thesis on powder feeding of the Laser Metal Deposition process, he started his PhD studies in the same technology at the Additive Manufacturing Center of the BMW Group in 2014. His research focuses on mechanical properties and microstructure of aluminium alloys by cladding with high deposition rates as well as on the comparison with an Arc Welding Technology. Furthermore he investigates the reproducibility and stability of both processes to fulfill the requirements for an automotive serial production.