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Video: The Engine From The 3D Printer
With the component weighing around 25 kg, the heart of an engine was manufactured for the first time using 3D printing. Robert Hofmann GmbH built the cylinder block, also known as the crankcase, for a VR6 engine at the turn of the year 2014/15 for Volkswagen. Installed in an engine, the cylinder crankcase has now also passed the practical test on a test bench from Volkswagen.
The cylinder block is almost identical to an existing series cylinder crankcase of the automobile operator. In contrast to this product cast from GJL-250 cast iron, the model consists of the 3D printer made of the lighter material aluminum. The CAD data of the cast iron cylinder block could be used for the prototype without time-consuming redesign.
Little porosity and hardly any deviations
One advantage of the printed cylinder block is the precise manufacturing. Volkswagen engineers carried out extensive metallurgical and geometric tests. Geometries inside, such as the water jacket around the cylinder tubes, were also checked with a computer tomograph. It was shown that the printed cylinder block has low porosity and significantly less warpage and deviations from the target geometry than comparable cast components.
For Robert Hofmann GmbH it is a great success that the cylinder block also works without problems in the fired engine. “When Volkswagen came up with the idea of building a complete cylinder block in a 3D printer, we were a bit skeptical at first,” says Michael Dinkel, who heads the project. Volkswagen wanted to investigate the potential of 3D printing technology and convinced the model builders from Lichtenfels, who are known for their innovative solutions, to try it.
Finished in 300 hours
The cylinder crankcase is the largest single component that Robert Hofmann GmbH has produced using 3D printing. The X 1000 R from Concept Laser took 300 hours for the 25 kg cylinder block. But the work wasn't over yet. For the post-processing of the block, the manufacturer had to throw all his experience into the weighing pan again. Cleaning and removing support structures in particular proved to be challenges.
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