The BMW AG plant in Regensburg, Germany, uses Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) for its vehicle design prototyping. But as FDM proves beneficial to more and more applications, BMW is applying it to other needs, including direct digital manufacturing.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is a rapid prototyping process. Thermoplastic modeling materials are fed into a temperature-controlled extrusion head, then deposited layer-by-layer onto a flat base to produce an object. At BMW, the plant’s department of jigs and fixtures uses FDM to build hand tools for automobile assembly and testing.
According to BMW engineer Günter Schmid, “The FDM process is a good alternative to the conventional subtractive fabrication manufacturing methods, such as milling, turning, and boring.” Its benefits include time and cost reductions in documentation, warehousing, and manufacturing.
Schmid uses FDM to manufacture ergonomic hand-held assembly devices. FDM gives him and other engineers the freedom to configure parts that sharpen handling, reduce weight, and improve balance. Ultimately, the parts perform better than conventionally made tools because they increase, worker comfort, ease-of-use, and process repeatability. “The tool designs we create often cannot be matched by machined or molded parts,” Schmid said.
“We reduced the weight of a device by 72% with a sparse-fill build technique. Replacing the solid core with internal ribs cut 1.3 kg (2.9 lb) from the device. This may not seem like much, but when a worker uses the tool hundreds of times in a shift, it makes a big difference.”
The layered FDM manufacturing process is well suited for the production of complex parts. One example is a tool that attaches bumper supports. It has a convoluted tube that bends around
obstructions and places fixturing magnets exactly where they are needed.
Schmid sees many possibilities for FDM. “It is also becoming popular for low-volume rapid manufacturing of end use parts,” he said.
: Design World :
Filed Under: Materials • advanced