Daimler AG funds large scale 3D printer for automotive parts

If you’re familiar with automobile history, or if you’ve owned a Jaguar, you may be familiar with Daimler AG. Daimler was a motor company founded in 1896 that made luxury cars for more than 50 years. Jaguar bought Daimler in 1960, Ford bought Jaguar in 1989, and Teta Group bought Jaguar and Daimler in 2008, so the company has been around. Now it’s called Daimler AG and distributes over 100 premium vehicles, from Mercedes-Benz, smart, and Freightliner lines. But the historic company seems to be taking steps toward the future when it comes to manufacturing. Daimler AG recently funded the research to create a large 3D printer specialized for automobile parts.

daimler 3D printer

The X line 1000R large build volume additive manufacturing (AM) system.

To develop the X line 1000R system that debuted in November at Euromold 2012, a partnership was formed between Fraunhofer Institute of Laser Technology and Concept Laser. The 1000R build volume (630mm x 400mm x 500mm) is not quite as large as the Objet1000’s (1000mm x 800mm x 500mm), but the 1000R is based on Concept Laser’s LaserCUSING selective laser sintering process, so it can print in metal. Additionally, its kilowatt laser is even more efficient than other SLS systems, operating faster and achieving layer thickness down to 20 microns (more like thinness). The lateral precision from the laser is even better, so the output on this machine is incredibly detailed. Fraunhofer designed the laser source and optics to work especially well with aluminum, as its strength, weight, and cost are all ideal for automobile components; die-casting is slow and expensive, and especially so for prototyping, so being able to print prototypes and end-use parts of complex geometries with the same machine will be indispensable for R&D and production efficiency gains. Concept Laser already produces machines that can print in steel and chromium-cobalt alloys, among others, so Fraunhofer’s enhancements make their combined toolbox all the more useful.

With this mini-factory Daimler AG is making a statement about the quality associated with their name: it’s here to stay. The best luxury cars today are a culmination of vintage craftsmanship and bleeding-edge technology; keeping up in 2013 means investing in 3D printing. Ford knows this, and apparently Daimler AG does too.

h/t: Design News