Volkswagen uses 3D printing to create wheel covers
Metal 3D printers are booming, but they’re still a little expensive and unknown option for many companies. However, making metal parts is no longer a problem, thanks to plastic printers you can have the same or better result. The trick is to combine the polymer printers with another process such as lost wax casting, sand casting or direct low temperature casting.
One of the easiest and highest quality ways to get metal parts from a 3D plastic printer is through galvanizing. Volkswagen and Autodesk have adopted this method for the creation of spectacular futuristic wheel covers.
The rim caps were printed with Formlabs’ 3D SLA printer using Clear Resin material. 3D printing on SLA is an excellent choice for electroplating as it offers an extremely smooth surface finish, fine details and watertight geometries.
A concept car powered by Metal 3D printing
Volkswagen’s “Type 20” concept car is a revamped and modernized version of the classic 1962 VW van, and in turn is an exemplary “masterpiece” for the next generation of automotive creators. Therefore, the VW designers worked with Autodesk to create various components using generative designs, including the striking cast steel wheels. To finalize the design, the respective wheel covers were needed, which had been designed with the inspiration of VW’s iconic style.
The wheel covers were printed with the SLA Formlabs printer using the “Clear Resin” material, then galvanized with a 0.004 inch layer of nickel resulting in parts that look and feel like metal.
Galvanizing of 3D printed parts is available on a wide variety of metals, including gold, nickel and copper.
The coating is available in a wide variety of metals, including gold, nickel and copper. On VW wheel covers, embossed surfaces are polished to a mirror finish, creating subtle contrast.
Galvanoplasty is ideal for automotive prototyping and other fields where metallic finishes are crucial; but it also works well for production parts that need to have the external characteristics of the metal at the lowest possible weight.
3D SLA printing is an excellent choice for electroplating. Compared to FDM technology and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), which produce rough parts that are not watertight, SLA offers an extremely smooth surface finish, fine details and watertight geometries.
Not only do galvanized wheel covers look and feel like metal, but coated surfaces significantly reinforce their underlying parts and improve the material’s resistance to wear, UV exposure and corrosion.
How to use 3D printing in production
Electroplating is one of many examples of how additive processes can support product development and manufacturing. Explore how you can use 3D printing to drive innovation and save time and costs with parts, tools, accessories, molds, and more.