BMW’s New Investment Could Make 3-D Printing Key Part Of Manufacturing

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The automotive manufacturing process has become increasingly efficient over time, but BMW still is taking steps to further improve it.

In a press release Monday, BMW announced that BMW i Ventures, the automaker’s venture capital arm, has invested in Desktop Metal, a 3-D printing startup based in Burlington, Mass. The company, which is preparing to launch its first product, specializes in creating metallic parts and products using a process that could drastically increase the speed with which parts are made.

“Just as plastic has redefined rapid prototyping, metal 3-D printing will make a profound impact on the way companies manufacture rapid prototypes and mass produce parts across all major industries,” Ric Fulop, CEO and co-founder of Desktop Metal, said in the release. “We are fortunate to have the backing of a leading group of strategic investors who support both our vision and our technology, and who are pivotal in propelling our company forward as we prepare for our product introduction in 2017.”

For BMW, the technology could allow it more design freedom, as 3-D printing with metal could significantly reduce the cost of manufacturing low-volume parts. Additionally, not only does the process make the customization and testing of prototype parts more cost efficient, but also the manufacturing of end-use parts.

“Advances in metal 3-D printing are driving innovation across a wide range of automotive applications and we are excited to work with Desktop Metal as part of our vision in adopting additive manufacturing (3D printing) at BMW,” Uwe Higgen, managing partner of BMW i Ventures, said in the release. “From rapid prototyping and printing exceptional quality parts for end-use production, to freedom of design and mass customization, Desktop Metal is shaping the way cars will be imaged, designed and manufactured.”

This appears to be just the beginning for Desktop Metal. Including BMW’s investment, the startup has raised $45 million in venture funding from Lowe’s and Alphabet, which owns Google, Fortune reports.

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Thumbnail photo via BMW

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