BMW Group Gets Set to Invest Over €10 million in New AM Campus
Lane Long posted on April 23, 2018 |
The German automaker announced early this week that it plans to centralize its 3D printing operation...
BMW’s 6,000-square-meter 3D printing hub is set to begin operation in under a year.
BMW’s 6,000-square-meter 3D printing hub is set to begin operation in under a year.

BMW Doubles Down on 3D Printing

Additive manufacturing (AM) already plays a significant role in many of the BMW Group's production processes. That role appears set to expand dramatically in early 2019, when the company plans to bring a new campus online that is dedicated to advancing 3D printing. BMW will renovate and customize an existing 6,000-square-meter facility just north of its Munich headquarters to house the initiative. With a final price tag expected to eclipse €10 million, the campus will focus on exploring the economic and design possibilities of both metals and plastics printing.

A Global Hub for Manufacturing Innovation

BMW’s vision for the new site is multifaceted, with the facility serving as the test center for the company’s entire production wing, developing and testing new additive techniques to determine what might have utility at scale. The company particularly wants to broaden its use of 3D printing in series production, according to Jens Ertel, who will oversee the campus when it goes on stream. Ertel noted that the BMW i8 Roadster featured a 3D-printed production run of thousands of superior quality metal parts, and that the organization hopes to build on that success going forward. 

The consolidation of the company’s AM expertise and infrastructure also helps ensure that the new facility will function as a de facto learning center. With plans for over 80 engineers and 30 additive machines to inhabit the space, the facility will be a natural incubator for incoming design and engineering talent. BMW plans to take advantage of the confluence of talent and technology by hosting on-campus trainings.

BMW’s latest additive manufacturing initiative, which is coming in 2019.

Exploration in 2019 and Beyond

The campus represents a continuation of the BMW Group’s recent pattern of investment in AM. The company’s venture capital division holds stakes in two young 3D printing companies, both of which look like promising candidates to bring valuable innovation to the components manufacturing space. These partnerships and the new campus should be valuable resources for one another in forwarding the organization’s broader 3D manufacturing goals.

Among the most tantalizing of developmental pathways the new facility hopes to explore involves localizing the production process. Ertel indicated that 3D printing is already being implemented in several of BMW’s largest production centers, and that further research could enable these locations to tailor their production to local demand. Customizing production to match regional demand patterns has the potential to redefine operational efficiency by meeting consumer needs exactly and cutting out links in the supply chain. In today’s global economy, the ramifications of that type of manufacturing decentralization are intriguing—to say the least. BMW’s new campus signals a clear organizational focus on getting there.

For more on how the development of additive manufacturing could change the economics of the auto industry, check out this piece on how other carmakers are implementing the technology.

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