Apr 12, 2016 | By Benedict

EDAG Engineering, Laser Zentrum Nord, Concept Laser, and the BLM Group have created the 3D printed, bionically optimized NextGen spaceframe, a lightweight and flexible car body produced using a combination of additive manufacturing, laser welding, and laser bending techniques.

Many automobile manufacturers are beginning to use 3D printing in minor areas of production and prototyping. BMW, Audi, and Ford are just some of the big names to have gone public about their use of additive manufacturing techniques, but it is one lesser-known name which has most fully committed to the concept of the 3D printed car. EDAG Engineering, a vehicle development company based in Wiesbaden, Germany, has been responsible for designing some of the most iconic 3D printed cars ever built. The tail-end of 2014 saw the additive experts unveil their 3D printed EDAG Light Cocoon concept car at the world-famous Geneva Motor Show, with the company more recently showcasing its stunning Soulmate concept car.

EDAG has now joined forces with a triplet of manufacturing experts in order to create its latest breathtaking design, the NextGen spaceframe. Two of those three collaborators are compatriots of EDAG: Laser Centrum Nord, based in Hamburg, specializes in laser welding, whilst Lichtenfels-based Concept Laser, which recently declared high sales growth in 2015, is an additive manufacturing expert. The third collaborator, the BLM Group, is a laser cutting specialist, headquartered in Italy but also operating in Germany and other areas of Europe. The four parties have each contributed their own areas of expertise, resulting in a hybrid manufacturing process combining numerous techniques and philosophies.

The fruits of the four companies’ joint labors can be seen in their 3D printed masterpiece, a bodywork concept that is adaptable and can be manufactured flexibly in order to cater for a range of automobile design options, particularly with regard to different drives and load stages. The hybrid car body, whose concept was devised by EDAG, combines additively manufactured bodywork nodes with intelligently processed profiles, which can be adjusted and combined as required to produce customized, individual vehicles on demand without additional tooling, equipment, or start-up costs. The individual pieces of the bodywork are connected using steel profiles, which can be easily adapted by providing them with different thicknesses and wall geometries.

The beauty of the 3D printed bodywork concept lies in its flexibility. According to the four manufacturers, the additively manufactured components of the NextGen spaceframe can be manufactured on site for the particular version of the automobile being produced. The profiles can be manufactured simultaneously, which can be cut to the appropriate shape and length with 3D bending, followed by 2D and 3D laser cutting, all of which are taken care of by the BLM Group. The customized modular parts are then connected using a laser welding technique, perfected and performed by Laser Zentrum Nord. The laser welding technique is characterized by intricate welded seams and low thermal input.

Additive manufacturing also plays a crucial role in the production of the NextGen spaceframe. Concept Laser, an industrial AM expert, uses its LaserCUSING process to create 3D printed nodes, which are used to connect the steel profiles together, and which can be adapted to reflect each load stage by incorporating additional stiffening elements where required. Each version is therefore optimized for its specific weight-bearing capacity and function. The components were 3D printed on a Concept Laser X line 1000R 3D printer, which boasts an appropriately large build envelope of 630 x 400 x 500 mm3 and operates with a 1kW laser. The design of both the profiles and nodes is optimized using CAE/CAD and guarantees the requirements that are demanded of an automobile bodywork structure.

With its combination of numerous manufacturing techniques, the NextGen spaceframe could provide a glimpse into the future of automobile bodywork production. The concept combines the flexibility and weight-reduction potential of additive manufacturing with the efficiency of established profile designs. Expect to see it implemented on future EDAG automobiles.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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