Local Firm Expands 3D Output

German firm, Continental, is producing 3D printed parts for the Volkswagen Caddy.<br>Photo courtesy of Continental.

German firm, Continental, is producing 3D printed parts for the Volkswagen Caddy.
Photo courtesy of Continental.

(CHATHAM, ON) – One of the world’s largest makers of tires and auto parts, Hanover, Germany-based Continental, which has a factory in Chatham-Kent, is using 3D printing for serial production of high-quality metal parts. The Square is following the current rapid adoption of additive manufacturing, as 3D printing is known, by major auto parts suppliers and even original equipment manufacturers.

Continental is using printers from Munich, Germany-based Electro Optical Systems to quickly and cost-effectively produce metal parts. The systems were installed in the fall over a two month period and are said by the company to be, “capable of reliably reproducing high quality parts and enables innovative approaches to production.”

The advantage of additive manufacturing is the elimination of molds, tools and dies, a foundation industry in Windsor. With a building volume of 250 x 250 x 325 mm, the EOS unit M 290 allows fast, flexible and cost-effective production of metal parts directly from Computer-aided Design data in a manner suitable for industrial production.

Currently EOS has installed over 500 machines worldwide and says its M 290, “represents one of the most successful AM systems for processing metal materials that the market has to offer.”

Continental, known for its tires, expects its total operations to generate €48 billion in sales this year with a staff complement of more than 233,000 people in 56 countries.

Although Continental did not reveal the parts it is currently “printing” a joint venture between Altair, APWORKS, csi entwicklungstechnik, EOS, GERG, and Heraeus used additive manufacturing to print the front-end structure of a classic VW Caddy to demonstrate the full potential of 3D printing in the automotive industry.

The structure, reports EOS whose printers were used, is very light, stable and features a high degree of functional integration. EOS says 3D printing is on the threshold of playing, “an integral role in large-scale manufacturing.”

“The true value proposition of additive manufacturing in automotive engineering can be realized only with considerations extending far beyond structural mechanics and lightweight construction. This functional integration –implementing as many technical features as possible with as few components as possible with the resulting added value, is an additional key advantage that makes the use of 3D printing lucrative for the automotive industry,” said the company.

Reduction of components goes a long way in reducing the complexity and cost of creating auto parts. Even the use of 3D printing simply for the creating of molds, tools and dies can save auto manufacturers considerable amounts of money which is probably why 3D printing is quickly eliminating traditional methods of tool making.

Volkswagen, in a February 13 update from Industrial Equipment News, is said to have solved the high costs mass producers of consumer goods face in the creation of, “tooling, jigs and fixtures represented a large investment that was expensive to build, costly and time consuming to manage.”

IEN says using an Ultimaker 3D printer, “the company can now test solutions in-house, purchasing costs were reduced by 91%; and implementation time was cut by 95%.”

In the competitive automotive industry, these savings are considerable. IEN says 3D printing reduces assembly tooling development time, improves ergonomics in manufacturing, produces major cost savings and solves prototyping and spare parts issues.

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Robert Tuomi
After initially succeeding as a broadcast journalist and achieving senior level assignments, Robert branched out into marketing communications. As a senior executive, primarily in the high-tech industry, Robert created award-winning and comprehensive, multi-faceted initiatives to enhance sales and expand market awareness for some of the largest companies in their fields. Email Robert Tuomi