EMI researchers examine manufacturing process in 3D Lab

Structurally optimized wheel bearing for an ultralightweight vehicle designed for Additive Manufacturing – made in the 3D-Printing Lab for Metals and Structural Materials at Fraunhofer EMI © Photo Fraunhofer EMI

In the newly opened 3D-Printing Lab for Metals and Structural Materials at the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institut, EMI, researchers have investigated how resource-efficient the manufacturing process is when lightweight aluminum components are manufactured using additive methods.

The 3D-Printing Lab for Metals and Structural Materials at Fraunhofer EMI in Freiburg houses one of the largest commercially available 3D printers for metal currently in existence. Using the selective laser melting technique (see box “How SLM works”), metal structures with dimensions of up to 40 cm can be made by additive manufacturing.

Fraunhofer researchers in the 3D-Printing Lab have investigated whether material and operating costs can be minimized compared to conventional industrial methods. To do this, they took a practical, widespread component for their tests: a wheel carrier such as might be used in a lightweight vehicle.

After the researchers had used the numerical finite element method (FEM) to simulate and analyze a draft design and determine the right geometric shape with structural optimization methods, they constructed the wheel bearing in an optimized lightweight design. The result was a wheel bearing designed for the defined load scenarios and offering maximum performance.