The BMW Group offered insight into its current product developments, technological concepts, innovations and manufacturing processes that it says will shape the future of mobility during a “Digital Day 2018” press event this week. In addition to showing how it was embracing next generation 5G mobile data networks, utilizing artificial intelligence to evaluate large data for decision making, and using virtual reality simulations to accelerate and optimize vehicle development, they also had a dedicated space to show off their additive manufacturing abilities.
This kind of 3D printing builds up a three-dimensional shape by adding thin layers of material on each pass of the machine. Inexpensive 3D printers for creating small, plastic parts have been appearing in many businesses and homes but commercial equipment can be used to create much larger parts in a variety of materials. This is a process BMW has been utilizing internally for a long time. We covered it extensively in the article “Rapid Prototyping” way back in our Summer 2010 BMW Motorcycle Magazine.
As part of their display, BMW had a completely 3D printed frame and swingarm for their S1000RR superbike. Unfortunately, the 3D printing process isn’t fast enough or cheap enough for mass production of parts — at least, not yet — so don’t expect to see next year’s RR with a 3D printed frame. But the additive manufacturing process is perfect to prototype parts. These can then be tested, adjusted and new revised parts then 3D printed more quickly than using other prototyping processes.