Classic car meets future technology: VW Caddy fitted with 3D-Printed front-end structure

Altair, APWORKS, csi entwicklungstechnik, EOS GmbH, GERG, and Heraeus have used the front-end structure of a classic VW Caddy to demonstrate the full potential of industrial 3D printing within the automotive industry. The structure is very light, stable, and, at the same time, features a high degree of functional integration. In this joint development project known as 3i-PRINT, the involved companies covered every development step of the process, from design, simulation, optimization and manufacturing to post production of the part. From conceptual design to final vehicle, the project was completed in only nine months.

Value of additive manufacturing for the automotive industry

Driving innovation, impacting decisive development processes, over the next few years, industrial 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), will play an integral role in large-scale manufacturing. The technology is already being deployed in a wide range of industries. The constant evolution of production and design techniques using AM will make the technology even more cost-effective and efficient in the future. In other words, the use of industrial 3D printing will continue to grow – also in the automotive industry. In order to drive innovation and decisively form development processes, it is essential to explore all possibilities in the fields of design and additive manufacturing today.
The true value proposition of additive manufacturing in automotive engineering can be realized only with considerations extending far beyond structural mechanics and lightweight construction. This functional integration –implementing as many technical features as possible with as few components as possible with the resulting added value, is an additional key advantage that makes the use of 3D printing lucrative for the automotive industry. With the Caddy concept, the 3i-PRINT project aims to demonstrate future technological possibilities.

Organic design for load-bearing structures

In view of the growing trend towards electrification in the automotive sector, for example of drive train and actuators, heat management as well as the reduction of design space and overall weight were crucial points when designing the front-end section. Moreover, structural requirements relating to vehicle safety, performance, and comfort needed to be addressed.
Accordingly, parts of the additively manufactured front are load-bearing structures that include details for both active and passive cooling – for example with a channeled airflow to cool batteries and brake systems. In addition, functions linked to heat management, passive safety, and fluids storage have been integrated in the organic, load-driven design of the front-end module. One example for the integration of additional functions into the structure is the fountain solution tank, which could be integrated into the front end structure when conducting the topology optimization.

Design for Additive Manufacturing

APWORKS took care of the final dimensioning of the components for 3D printing. APWORKS contributed its knowledge of print preparation and handled the actual additive manufacturing of the structural elements.  When printing the front end, APWORKS relied on a system developed by EOS, the leading technology supplier in the field of industrial 3D printing of metals and polymers. Metal powder specialist Heraeus supplied and qualified the high-strength aluminum alloy Scalmalloy®, developed by APWORKS, to manufacture the components. APWORKS provided support for the printing process by developing the ideal printing parameter sets for the EOS M 400 system. Thanks to the combined use of AM and this innovative material, the project successfully demonstrates the possibilities of functional integration that traditional manufacturing methods are unable to offer.

Impressive to see the making of video…