How Walter Automobiltechnik Streamlines Quality Assurance with 3D Printed Automotive Production Tools

Integrating 3D printing into the automotive industry’s product development and prototyping workflows is now a widely accepted strategy to reduce costs and lead times. Despite the acceptance, later stages of industrial production remain ripe for additive manufacturing innovation. One recent area of rapid growth is in 3D printed production tools for use in serial production.

3D Printed Production Tools Reduce Workflows

Walter Automobiltechnik (WAT), a Berlin-based automotive manufacturer specializing in the production of vehicle frames, is dramatically improving workflows in their facilities with custom 3D printed tools. The production tools, created with WAT’s BigRep ONE industrial 3D printer, are implemented into quality assurance workflows, reducing time spent on control lines with simple jigs to help semi-automate quality assurance checks. The control systems have cut workflows in half, freeing employee time and reducing order fulfillment time.

Automotive 3D Printing - Improving Factory Workflows with Custom-Fit Jigs and Fixtures

“The customer expectation regarding the quality is one thing, the customer expectation regarding the project time to deliver parts is getting shorter and shorter,” said Martin Münch, WAT’s head of engineering. “Here especially, 3D printing and the BigRep ONE helps us a lot to reduce the cycle costs of the project.”

Cutting Costs for Custom Jigs with 3D Printers

By 3D printing jigs for their new control systems, WAT has sidestepped the significant costs traditionally associated with custom industrial tools. Rather than commission a machine shop to manually shape the jigs from aluminum or other metals, WATs BigRep ONE is used in house to innovate their workflows on demand.

“Because I can print one cubic meter, I can produce really large components – which you can see with these jigs,” said André Lenz, an engineer at WAT and the technician responsible for designing and printing useful parts for WAT’s Berlin facility. “If we had made them out of steel or aluminum, for example, it would have been incredibly expensive and above all heavy and made from multiple parts.”

Automotive-Quality-Assurance-Production-Tools-WAT
Automotive-Manufacturing-tools-WAT

Like many companies that add a large-format 3D printer to their roster of industrial equipment, the value for WAT hasn’t ended with their primary application. Lenz has been designing and printing helpful aids around the facility for everything from trays to sheaths for holding tools within easy reach.

 

For WAT, the decision to invest in a BigRep ONE for automotive 3D printing has been game changing. They’ve cut costs and reduced workflow on essential manufacturing processes to help deliver their product at the cost and within the time their customers expect. But quality assurance is just the beginning as WAT continuing to develop more additive manufacturing applications to create more efficient automotive manufacturing processes.

3D Printed Car Parts for Solar-Electric Vehicles

3D Printed Solar Powered Car Prototype

3D printed car parts are helping engineers to rapidly prototype solar-powered cars, accelerating research into fossil fuel alternatives for consumer vehicles.

The explosively growing trend of electric vehicles (EVs) is clearing the way for new methods of fuel-creation – away from finite, expensive, and environmentally hazardous resources. Since electricity is still largely produced by fossil fuels and other major pollutants, energy production is bottlenecking the reduced carbon footprint of EVs.

Fortunately, ongoing research into cars with integrated solar power cells promises new horizons of environmental responsibility, energy independence and unfettered access to power and mobility across the world.

3D Printed Car Parts - Solar Car
A concept rendering of Futuro Solare's Archimede solar car as a consumer vehicle.

Spurred by global events like Australia’s international solar-car race, the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, Researchers are already working towards vehicles with integrated solar panels.

BigRep and other corporate sponsors provide researchers with the means to construct and test vehicles with local solar power that participate in these races. The vehicles and their construction process, while sponsored and constructed for these publicized events, are used to advance research into solar vehicles and how we might work towards developing the technology for everyday consumers.

For some groups, BigRep’s large-format 3D printers have played a major role in advancing research. Lack of access to expensive traditional manufacturing technologies is a large barrier for the small teams working on solar vehicles. Fortunately, additive manufacturing easily fills in for the production of functional fixtures, prototypes and more 3D printed car parts.

3D Printed Car Parts: Heat-Resistant Battery Fixtures for Futuro Solare

At Futuro Solare, an Italian-Sicilian team of volunteer engineers and solar-vehicle enthusiasts, they’re dedicated to the mission of eliminating fossil fuels from everyday life. Like many other institutions, developing solar-powered vehicles is how they work towards their goal.

3D Printed Car Parts: Solar Race Car
Futuro Solare's Archimede 1 solar racecar.

When the group needed several end-use fixtures for their solar-car’s battery block they were stuck in a complicated acquisition dilemma. Since their racecar is entirely custom there isn’t a readily available solution on the market. Worse yet, since the prototype vehicle is always changing there’s a good chance the team will soon need another iteration of the fixture: taking expensive custom milled fixtures off the table entirely. The team needed a custom solution that was affordable, lightweight and, most importantly, able to resist any heat the battery block or other components might give off.

Futuro Solare approached NOWLAB, BigRep’s consultancy for engineered solutions, to 3D print suitable fixtures with a heat-resistant material that would meet their needs. BigRep’s HI-TEMP filament – an affordable bio-polymer able to withstand heat up to 115 ˚C – was the perfect solution. The part was printed and installed in their current solar-car and has since been quickly and easily updated to fit with their ever-evolving design.

3D Printed Car Parts: Battery Frame
3D-Druck von Batterieblockhalterungen für Archimede von Futuro Solare

Wind Tunnel Testing with Team Sonnenwagen

Team Sonnenwagen, a solar race team out of Germany’s Aachen University, was preparing for their second year participating in the World Solar Challenge. Having learned from their previous experience in 2017, they knew it was important to carefully check the aerodynamics of their solar-racecar before the race began. Unfortunately, the university’s wind tunnel was too small to test their full-sized vehicle. Team Sonnenwagen turned to BigRep for an additive manufacturing solution.

It was important for Team Sonnenwagen to understand how their vehicle will behave faced with the variety of forces present in a race. After all, they would be putting one of their own team in the driver’s seat to race at 140 km/h through the Australian outback. BigRep sponsored Team Sonnenwagen and, taking advantage of 3D PARTLAB, our 3D printing service bureau.

With our industrial 3D printers’ massive one-cubic-meter build volume, we created a perfect 1:2.5 scale model of the vehicle. Reasonably scaled down, the team could fit their design in Aachen University’s wind tunnel and undergo the tests to prepare them for their race. Because of the model they were able to validate the vehicle’s downforce lift, confirm its sail, and view a variety of other aerodynamic and force tests that helped the team compete and stay safe.

3D Printed Prototype for Wind Tunnel Tests
Das Team Sonnenwagen verwendet Rauch an seinem skalierten Solar-Rennwagen, um die Aerodynamik zu überprüfen

3D Printed Car Parts Bring Solar-Powered Cars Closer to Reality

Additive manufacturing plays an ever-increasing role in the development of bleeding-edge technology. Solar-powered vehicles are just one example of a technology that benefits from short rapid prototyping cycles, affordable scaled models, and on-demand engineering-quality solutions for spare parts and fixtures.

Because of the opportunities afforded by large-format additive manufacturing, like BigRep’s industrial 3D printers, innovative researchers like Futuro Solare and Team Sonnenwagen have resources never previously accessible at their scale. With them, accelerated research into integrated renewable power has been possible – inching the world closer to reliable solar-powered vehicles for new heights of environmental responsibility and energy independence around the world.

Learn more about Additive Manufacturing

GUIDE TO INTEGRATE LARGE-FORMAT ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING

3D printing a large part all at once means less time is spent designing around multiple print jobs or assembling multiple parts, and more time getting those parts to work for you.

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Learn how Kingston University, Helmut Schmidt University and more are using BigRep 3D printers for their classrooms and research.

BigRep’s COVID-19 Response

Covid-19 Face Shield

Faced with the challenges of COVID-19, we at BigRep believe the response should be nothing less than all hands on deck. Fortunately, additive manufacturing technology is uniquely capable of tackling the supply chain challenges the world is currently faced with.

Here you'll find an updated post about how we're working to support COVID-19 relief efforts, and any resources we can share that will help you contribute too.

If you're part of an organization responding to COVID-19 and could use BigRep's help, please reach out to [email protected] with requests.

For up to date information about the ongoing pandemic, visit the World Health Organization at https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

Protective Face Shields for Local Communities

BigRep is donating face shields to local organizations to provide protection from the novel coronavirus. In our recent post we shared the face shield's file (also found here below) and asked the additive manufacturing community to participate in their production and distribution.

We're asking our network of partners and customers to get involved and are offering a complementary 2.3kg spool of PLA in exchange for video footage of the face shields' production on BigRep 3D printers that we’ll use to continue our call for action, getting more and more people involved in this movement.

Without stacking, BigRep's large-format AM systems are able to print up to 24 of the masks at once and we're currently testing methods for optimal stacked production - so check back!

Connectors for Improvised Ventilators

Innovators around the world are devising creative ways to combat the shortage of ventilators and fill the gap between need and supply.

To help implement one solution, these BigRep 3D-printed connectors are off to the German Red Cross to help convert full-faced diving masks into improvised ventilators.

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That's all for now!

But we're working on more! Keep an eye on the BigRep blog and all our social media channels to hear how we're helping next.

BANYAN Eco Wall – The World’s First Fully 3D Printed, Irrigated Green Wall

BigRep is proud to present the BANYAN Eco Wall, the world’s first fully additively manufactured (AM) green wall with naturally integrated drainage and irrigation systems. The prototype features unprecedented innovations in design, functionality, technology and size, made possible with the BigRep ONE’s large-format additive printing process.

Designed at NOWLAB, BigRep’s innovation consultancy, by Mirek Claßen, Tobias Storz and Lindsay Lawson, the project features liquid channels that have been integrated into the manufacturing process. Similar vertical-farm structures have required channels to be manually embedded into the design in a complicated process after manufacturing with metal piping and a variety of other parts. The BANYAN, on the other hand, is 3D printed with internal channels included in the design. This allows for ultimate design freedom, as the eco wall’s structure doesn’t need to be planned around the available materials to create channels in post-production. These drainage systems are vital for the proper function of the integrated irrigation system, as excess water must be removed.

Irrigation systems, implemented to provide a controlled supply of water at requisite intervals, ensure the unique needs of plants and crops are met without the need for human intervention. Systems such as this inspire interior designers and architects developing a greener future – from home or workspace plant walls and green facades to vertical gardens and other forms of urban farming.

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Inspired by the multipurpose properties of plants’ root, steam and leave systems, the design of the BANYAN Eco Wall takes advantage of biomimicry design to create a structure that simultaneously functions as a support structure and water supply system. Its bionic design, measuring 2000 x 2000 x 600 mm, goes beyond aesthetics to be structurally optimized with plant carriers that easily and organically snap into place. The small internal channels are designed for optimal water flow and feature an integrated “micro shower” mechanism to irrigate plants precisely where needed.

“Our BANYAN Eco Wall is adopting nature’s principle with a complex, smart, and elegant design only achievable with AM. Traditional technologies such as milling or injection molding cannot deliver this level of complexity and dual functionality,” explains BigRep CEO Stephan Beyer, PhD. “For the first time, thanks to AM and advanced CAD software, it is now possible to create complex functional designs within a fully digitized process chain.”

BigRep CIO and NOWLAB Managing Director Daniel Büning adds, “Generative design software was crucial in the creation of the BANYAN Eco Wall to optimize the structure for printability and stability while allowing a rapid iterative design process. This prototype will push the boundaries of AM not only in irrigated plant systems, such as in vertical farming and green facades, but for any application requiring embedded functionalities.”



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The BANYAN ECO WALL at a glance:
Dimensions: 2000 x 2000 x 600 mm, made up of 4 segments
Materials: BigRep Berliner Weisse Pur PETG for overall structure; BigRep Black PRO HT for planters
Team: Daniel Büning, BigRep CIO and NOWLAB Co-Founder
Lead Designers – Mirek Claßen, Tobias Storz, Lindsay Lawson

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We Lifted the BigRep ONE with a 3D Printed Carabiner

The BigRep ONE beeing lifted with a 3D Printed CArabiner

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Michel David, Special Projects Manager at BigRep, had printed a few carabiners at home with his family on their small desktop 3D printer. They’re useful, he said, for hanging things, or for clipping a bicycle helmet to a backpack.

He then wanted to try and 3D print a super-sized carabiner and see if it is strong enough to lift very heavy objects. With the BigRep ONE having a 1m3 volume build, the challenge wasn’t going to be printing the large carabiner – rather, it would testing the strength of BigRep’s filaments!

“I started printing carabiners in large size, to see how strong they are,” said David. “We were testing holding heavy things with it, then Johann suggested we try lifting one of our own BigRep ONE printers.”

We Lifted Our Huge 500 kg 3D Printer With BigRep PLA

So, a plan was hatched. One of the older BigRep ONE machines, which BigRep was gifting to a university, would be the load borne by one of the carabiners. David and the team calculated that a certain thickness of BigRep PLA would be able to lift up to 1000 kg off the ground.

The team bought the 3D model design from ddf3d.com and they customized it for BigRep’s use. It was printed in eight hours, using 25% infill and a wall thickness of 6 mm.

BigRep connected with a prototyping space in Berlin-Kreuzberg called MotionLab, which had the room and giant crane necessary to complete the feat.

The aim was to lift it 15 cm or so, in safe conditions with padding beneath each corner of the printer, so as to cushion a possible, yet unlikely, fall. All BigRep and MotionLab staff involved were standing by, all kitted out with helmets.

Then, the grand finale. Drumroll, please…

Our 3D printed Carabiner

The BigRep PLA carabiner lifted the 332.9 kg machine, then the team added more weight to the printer to make it 507 kg and it held, comfortably. As David had predicted, the BigRep PLA stayed strong and did the BigRep team proud. We highly recommend watching the video of the lift for the full effect.

Thanks again to all those involved, especially to MotionLab for the use of their facility and equipment!

Check out our BigRep PLA Filament

World-first 3D Printed Airless Bicycle Tire

3D Printed Airless Bicycle Tire

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We’ve taken to the streets with our latest innovation, and are pleased to present the world’s first 3D-printed, full-scale airless bicycle tire. BigRep Product Designer Marco Mattia Cristofori shares with us how he used the flexible properties of the company’s new Pro FLEX filament to bring the tire prototype to life. We even captured him taking the tire out for a test spin through the streets of Berlin. You can see it in motion in the video below.

"We were able to replace ‘air’ as a necessity in the tire by customizing the pattern to be one of a three-layered honeycomb design. Based on the same principle, the design can be altered to fit the requirements of specific kinds of biking, such as mountain biking and road racing, or for different weather and speed conditions. Perfecting the design is the trickiest part," says Cristofori. Even small changes to the infill percentage or pattern can lead to different results in terms of weight and performance.

Printed on the BigRep ONE large-scale 3D printer, the tire prototype utilizes the full potential of BigRep’s latest filament: Pro FLEX. What separates the Pro FLEX from other 3D printing filaments is its unique flexible properties, coupled with high temperature resistance and durability. The rigidity and the internal pattern, known as the infill, can be controlled and customized to suit different weather conditions or terrain. The current tire prototype uses a three-layered honeycomb pattern adapted for urban use.

World-First 3D Printed Airless Bicycle Tire

The main advantage of airless tires as opposed to your average run-of-the-mill tires is that they simply never go flat. Once a luxury, airless tires are now looking to become standard practice in the transportation world. This is not BigRep’s first foray into the mobility world – BigRep has worked on a wide range of automotive, aerospace and transportation projects for such clients such as Aerobus, BMW, Deutsche Bahn, Etihad and Nissan. Following a recent blog post in which we showcased the high-temperature resistant wheel rim, BigRep’s portfolio of use cases continues to expand. It is also possible to print a fully-functioning bicycle frame on the BigRep ONE – as engineers of Aalborg University demonstrated in a recent project.

Since the release of the airless bicycle tire video, the TPU-based tire has received coverage from around the globe, such as on online news sites Inhabitat and CNET. With more projects in the works, we’re delving right into prototyping for the mobility, automotive, aerospace and other industries, so stay tuned for more news in the coming weeks.

Shifting gear into 3D print mode: How Paravan cut production costs by 75% with the BigRep ONE

Paravan modified car

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Vehicle customization company Paravan is a leading international provider of vehicle adaptations for people with a disability or special needs. With their personalized, road-approved, safety-related industrial applications, Paravan doesn’t just deliver car parts from its industrial mobility park in Germany – they offer mobile freedom to those who need it most.

Their solutions are specifically tailored to individual medical needs, incorporating features such as wheelchair access, loading systems, rotating seating, and many more accessibility assets for safety and comfort. Providing such highly tailored automotive components requires a great deal of time consulting, designing, prototyping and installing, to ensure the components work as they should. This makes time and resource savings even more valuable.

BigRep is pleased to be a part of making those savings a reality. Now working with a BigRep ONE, Paravan can rely on large-volume 3D printing technology, instead of depending on older, time-intensive processes to deliver parts.

“With the BigRep ONE, we can quickly and inexpensively print complex components that are either impossible or very difficult to produce by machine,” said Mario Kütt, Head of Mechanical Construction at Paravan, when we spoke with him about how the BigRep ONE is shifting how they produce parts. “Now we print a component that we had previously milled, thereby saving around 75% of the costs.”

In addition to saving 75% on production costs, Paravan is also producing its prototypes almost 50% faster using 3D printing than with traditional methods. One such prototype the Paravan team has printed is a revolutionary new steering mechanism. Unlike in most cars, this Paravan steering wheel is electronic, rather than being directly connected to the steering column. The specialist automotive company designed their own cover for the steering wheel using the BigRep ONE 3D printer.

Custom grips, created from 3D scans, are another example of the kinds of custom parts that Paravan prints with the BigRep ONE large-scale 3D printer. “We have had the printer for a good year, and together with a 3D scanner, our construction engineers work with it daily,” said Alexander Nerz, Paravan’s Head of Marketing & PR. “It’s great to be able to quickly and efficiently build designs overnight... to be able to install the piece into the customer’s vehicle the very next day. It’s a really great tool.”

For more information on how Paravan is using 3D printing to change the way they produce their innovative industrial applications:

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