Companies Partner to Fit VW Caddy with 3D-Printed Structure

The partnership, called 3i-PRINT, shows possibilities for AM in the automotive sector.

A joint development project, 3i-PRINT, has fitted the front end of a VW Caddy with a 3D-printed structure, demonstrating the potential of additive manufacturing in the automotive industry. 3i-PRINT members Altair, APWorks, CSI Entwicklungstechnik, EOS GmbH, GERG and Heraeus worked together to cover every step in the process, from design to post production, of manufacturing a light, stable and functionally integrated structure. The goal of the project is to act as an agile engineering platform for researching and developing prototypes with the use of new tools and methods, including additive manufacturing.

Additive manufacturing enabled the structure’s design to include many technical features with a small number of components, adding value to the structure and providing a key for the future use of AM in automotive production, particularly as the industry moves towards electrification. For this reason, crucial points in design of the Caddy’s front-end section included heat management in the drive train and actuators, as well as reduction of design space and overall weight. They also addressed structural requirements for vehicle safety, performance and comfort. These considerations led to the design of load-bearing structures that include features for active and passive cooling, such as a channeled airflow for cooling batteries and brake systems. Other features incorporated into the design are for heat management, passive safety and fluids storage, including a fountain solution tank.

Experts at CSI Entwicklungstechnik, which develops vehicle modules for automotive manufacturers and suppliers, designed, optimized, simulated and developed the structure using Altair software. APWorks handled the manufacturing, using an M 400 system from EOS and a high-strength aluminum alloy from Heraeus called Scalmalloy. With the help of GERG, which supplies prototypes and small-scale series for the automotive and aerospace sectors, the companies connected the additively manufactured components and created the final frame, all within a nine-month timeframe.