EOS and Audi expand range of applications for tool segment production using metal AM

Audi AG, a manufacturer of premium vehicles, is reportedly relying on Additive Manufacturing for the production of selected tool segments at its Metal 3D Printing Centre in Ingolstadt, Germany. Audi uses EOS GmbH’s metal AM technology to produce twelve segments of four tools for hot forming, and plans for significantly more segments to be additively manufactured this way.

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Audi uses the tool segments, which are produced using an EOS M 400 machine, in its press shop to make body panels for models, including the Audi A4. The company plans to do the same for future electric vehicles.

According to Audi, shifting part of its tool segment production activities from conventional manufacturing to AM is an important step, highlighting both the quality and reliability of industrial Additive Manufacturing and the design freedom advantages this production method offers.

This outcome is the result of a longstanding cooperative relationship between Audi and EOS in Ingolstadt. EOS provided support in the form of technology and know-how before and during the construction of Audi’s AM centre back in 2016. Since then, experts from both companies have been making steady progress on the use of AM, and Audi has established an ideal application in the area of hot forming for series vehicles. Several hundred thousand parts are said to have already been produced using the additively manufactured tools and installed in selected models.

For hot forming segments and high-pressure die casting tool inserts, the design department in Ingolstadt creates entire tools which can measure as much as 5 x 3 m. The individual additively manufactured tool segments in turn can be up to 400 mm in length and weigh as much as 120 kg.

The size and complexity of the tool segments mean that construction times of up to twenty days are not uncommon. Additive Manufacturing makes it possible to create highly complex cooling channels configured for the specific component within the tool segments. This provides contoured, more-even cooling, making it possible to shorten cycle times with outstanding quality – a critical point for series production of the actual vehicle component.

Matthias Herker, Technical Project Manager at the Audi Metal 3D Printing Centre, stated, “From initial qualification by EOS to internal further development and refinement of the entire process chain through to standardisation of a new production method, we are now reaping the fruits of years of development within Audi’s production organisation. Whenever conventional manufacturing methods reach their limit, we use Additive Manufacturing – which lets us meet quality standards and comply with production times.”

Markus Glasser, senior vice president EMEA at EOS, commented, “The latest examples show that 3D printing has become an established part of operating materials production at Audi. We’re especially proud that the tool segments made using AM are created exclusively using an industrial 3D printer from EOS. Audi is a partner we can work with to continue to drive the use of AM in automotive production – a key industry for us.”