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BMW’s 3D-Metal Printed Bracket Raised the Roof at Altair Enlighten Awards Ceremony

2018-08-15 15:07
The Altair Enlighten Awards, which honor advances in lightweighting technology, are the automotive industry’s equivalent of The Biggest Loser. The stunner (although not the winner at this year’s awards) was a roof bracket, small enough to fit in the pocket of Maximilian Meixlsperger, the head of metal additive manufacturing at BMW who designed it. “When the judges looked at this part, we said, ‘this is the tip of the iceberg for manufacturing,’” said Richard Yen, Altair senior vice president for global automotive and industry and one of a team of judges for the award across industry, from Japan, China, the U.S., Germany and the UK.

Meixlsperger spent 10 years, off and on, tinkering with the design, before 3-D printing technology finally caught up with his ambitions—and in three months’ time, production ramped up and the part was produced for the 2018 BMW i8 Roadster.

The roof bracket—the mechanism that makes the soft top on the Roadster rise and lower, fold and unfold, quickly in a zigzag configuration—is the first 3-D printed metal component that has been successfully mass-produced, albeit in low volumes. It is also 44% lighter than the conventionally manufactured roof bracket for the previous Roadster model.
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