Everyone is talking about "3D printing". Ever since consumer printers for € 1,000 began to flood the market, the extent of the new potential of additive manufacturing technology has been absolutely clear. Additive manufacturing is already in use in the aerospace industry and medical technology. But so far, almost exclusively for prototypes in the automotive industry.
But what is the future of this technology? Can additive manufacturing move beyond just rapid prototyping in the automotive industry? Can it do more? At EDAG, we anticipate that these processes are ready for the next step. A step that will revolutionise and expand the classic manufacturing processes and structural design methods. This is made possible by the latest advances in development, which enable extremely complex and highly efficient structures to be represented using this process.
With "EDAG Genesis", the company's exhibit at the 2014 Geneva Show, the EDAG developers provided a visionary outlook for what might well be the next industrial revolution in automotive development and production. Our exhibit, "EDAG GENESIS" can be seen as a symbol of the new freedoms and challenges that additive manufacturing processes will open up to designers and engineers in development and production. Additive manufacturing will make it possible to come a great deal closer to the construction principles and strategies of nature. Developed functionally and evolutionarily into optimised structures from which man can learn. And the entire process is tool-free, resource-saving and eco-friendly.
"EDAG GENESIS" is based on the bionic patterns of a turtle, which has a shell that provides protection and cushioning and is part of the animal's skeleton. The shell is similar to a sandwich component, with fine, inlying bone structures that give the shell its strength and stability. This concept is reflected in the exhibit. In "EDAG GENESIS", the skeleton is more of a metaphor; in this case, it does not form part of a musculoskeletal system, but instead provides extra passenger safety. The framework calls to mind a naturally developed skeletal frame, the form and structure of which should make one thing perfectly clear: these organic structures cannot be produced using conventional tools! Although the turtle had millions of years to develop to suit its needs and, for instance, perfect its "passenger safety system", man is still theoretically at the very beginning of a possible paradigm shift. The traditional rules of design, with restrictions caused by production, will only play a very minor role in additive manufacturing, and the tried and tested construction methods of nature can also be applied in a genuine series production situation, which was unconceivable in the past.
The impact it might have on the status quo of vehicle development is immense. The high degree of freedom offered by additive manufacturing processes enables load-specific, crash-optimised, bionic and multi-functional parts to be designed, while ensuring ideal wall thickness (no over-dimensioning) and outstanding material properties. The one advantage that will prove decisive in moving our society forwards is the CO2-reduced vehicle body of the future. To name another of the countless advantages, additive manufacturing processes will also, from a point of view of logistics, bring about a great many changes. Future decentralised manufacturing structures will, for instance, permit a high degree of flexibility and efficiency in product evolution. Just imagine, for instance, that components and spare parts would only be printed or generated on request , or if needed for repairs.
Even though industrial usage of additive manufacturing processing is still in its infancy, the revolutionary advantages already mean that this technology is definitely a subject for the future. As the "EDAG Genesis" proves, it is already quite feasible and realistic to assume that it will soon be possible to use it to produce components, and then in the next stage modules and assemblies.
According to the Chinese proverb, every journey starts with a single step.