At the center of the production chain is the EOS M 400-4 four-laser system (Photo: Daimler)

Daimler and two specialist partners have put into operation a pilot plant that uses 3D printing technology to make components for the automotive and aerospace industries.

The German premium car group worked on the project, which is called NextGenAM, with Premium Aerotec, which develops and produces metal and carbon fiber composite aircraft structures, and EOS, a 3D printing specialist.

The pilot plant, located at a Premium Aerotec facility in Varel in northern Germany, operates various machines for additive manufacturing, post-processing, and quality assurance. The production chain is fully automated, which is a key factor in lowering costs.

“In this project we have already succeeded in significantly reducing the production cost per part,” said Premium Aerotec CEO Thomas Ehm. This paves the way for implementing large-scale digital 3D printing factories, he added.

The cost-reduction potential, coupled with the added flexibility provided by the technology, are among the main drivers of auto-industry efforts to introduce 3d printing.

Jasmin Eichler, Daimler’s head of research future technologies, said in a press release that 3D printing “is well on the way to establishing itself in the automotive sector as an additional manufacturing method with great versatility.”

The partners aren’t yet committing to a date for the full integration of 3D printing in Daimler’s car production process. They said the next steps will involve further testing and the collection and analysis of production data.

-By Arjen Bongard