Stützstruktur für 3D-Druck

Freshly printed little helpers

How 3D printing helps in everyday work life

Working tools simply made by 3D-printing – that’s what a team from the Audi Böllinger Höfe are responsible for. They relieve their colleague’s everyday life in a simple way. Audi Blog author Luisa Kübler investigated which little helpers the team has already developed.

Teileentnahme aus SLS Pulverbett
A new part hidden in the SLS powder board: During the so-called additive production with 3D-printing, material is applied layer by layer. The advantages of the procedure is particularly fast and cost-effective course of action.

Who knows, maybe in a few years we will print our own clothing, our jewelry or even our food? The Audi production wouldn’t be imaginable without print or rather synthetic material print to be precise.

At Audi, 3D-printers were used for the first time in 1999 for model making – back then in its infancy stage. Since then, 3D-printing has developed rapidly and it’s now possible to use the technology in different areas, such as development, production, assembly or design. Four years ago, the team of leader Thomas Kaiser and Waldemar Hirsch from the Audi R8 Analysis Center, started with their little project for practical working tools from the 3D-printer.

How 3D-prints were integrated into everyday work life at Audi

They were fascinated by how easy the little printed working tools can optimize processes in products. And that’s how the first prototype was created. After a short time period, they were able to add Hasen-Cem Gülaylar to their team. He is responsible for organizing the workshop. Together with colleagues from different departments, they’ve continued to develop the technology since then. Whether it’s about positioning aids, safety devices, pen holders, adapters or molds: With the 3D-printer, the three of them just print the clever ideas.

Basic 3D-printing knowledge

3D-printing is called "additive manufacturing" by experts. The printer puts the different layers above each other and thus creates a new component. In comparison to conventional production techniques, the material is applied little by little and isn't removed during milling, drilling, rotating or eroding. Some of the used materials are synthetic material or metal.


Since 2013, the manufacture’s employees have printed more than several hundred ideas and projects – many are indispensable little helpers for their colleagues on site. It is important for the 3D-print experts to take the individual needs of the different departments into account: “Aside from ergonomic helpers for the production, we also manufacture helpers for everyday usage for our colleagues sitting in offices, such as pen holders or an optimization for our robot vacuum cleaner that takes care of our offices”, Hirsch says. Thus, a whole community around the topic of 3D printing has been created.

3D-gedrucktes Lüftungsgitter aus der Vogelperspektive

From the idea to the computer draft to the final 3D-printed ventilation grille: The Tech.Lab employees accompany the whole development process of a new tool.

Hirsch, Kaiser and Gülaylar constructed the so-called Tech.Lab as their workplace in the Böllinger Höfen: A glazed office right next to the R8 production. Modern furniture made out of word, whiteboards, plants and colorful seating arrangements ensure a creative atmosphere in the room. They often do brainstorming sessions there together and scribble down their thoughts on whiteboards and colorful post its. The door of the Tech.Lab is always open for all employees; almost daily colleagues with completely different tasks knock at the glass door to introduce their ideas to the three print experts. “It is one of our goals to optimize the working processes in production further, for instance, to make it more ergonomic”, Kaiser explains. “Thus, it is a huge gain when our colleagues bring in their suggestions for improvement.”

For every new project, the experts Kaiser, Hirsch and Gülaylar develop a new construction file on the computer with the CAD (computer-aided design) tool. Then, a prototype is created in the 3D-printer, in the following step the part is ready for practical implementation.

The little helpers the team has already developed

An adapter for implementation in the cockpit

Depending on whether a car is a right-hand drive or a left-hand-drive, the employees have to position and install the cockpit in the car’s interior accordingly. Therefore, the employees have printed out so-called paddles. The latter are colorful synthetic adapters that the employees put on the molding machine for the cockpit installation. Thereby, they can mount the instrument panel in the car perfectly.

And because installing the cockpit works differently in a right-hand or left-hand drive, the paddles have different colors depending on the vehicle type. The team has also printed a box for the adapters to make sure that every paddle is where it belongs.

Audi Mitarbeiter mit Adapter für Einbau des Cockpits
Paddles in action: The colorful adapters help the employees during the assembly with installing the country-specific position (right-hand or left-hand drive) of the cockpit.

A positioning aid for the assembly

The so-called cross member strut takes care of the needed vehicle stiffness in the Audi R8 Spyder and is located behind the seats. During assembly, the employees have to place the strut on the precise height in the car, so they can implement the compartment between the seats and achieve the ideal gap size. For the perfect assembly of the cross strut, the 3D experts have developed a positioning aid. The latter makes sure that the strut is in the right position.

Frontansicht Querträgerstrebe Audi R8 Spyder

Ever since 1999, 3D-printing has been applied by the department I/E-V36 model construction. Since then, the technology has been developed and spread widely: From printing synthetic materials to prototype parts or even series production parts made from different materials.

Protective covers for tools right out of the 3D-printer

Audi Mitarbeiter bei der Arbeit mit Flüssigsilikon
Hasan Cem Gülavlar, who is responsible for the workshop's organisation, protects the different parts of a car during an assembly with tools that have been covered by liquid silicone.

Screwing, grouting, tightening, using the ratchet: The employees in the Audi R8 assembly use a variety of different tools when working directly on the vehicle.

To avoid scratching the tools unintentionally, the 3D-team came up with an idea: Using CAD (computer-aided design), they have constructed, printed and poured out negative mold made from synthetic material in the forms of tools.

Thus, individual covers for the single tools were created. They protect the car from possible damages during the assembly.

Safety devices for ratchets

During the assembly of drive shafts in the wheelhouse to the gear, the employees use a screwdriver and an auxiliary device with a big ratchet. For ensuring that the ratchet isn’t rotating in the screwdriver’s direction, the creative team has printed out a little helper. The result is a green plastic protection that ensures that the switch for the ratchet is pushed in one direction and won’t accidentally shift.

3D-gedruckte Sicherheitsvorrichtung für Ratschen

Little green helper: During assembly, the plastic protection takes care of ensuring that the ratchet switch is pushed in one direction and thus making sure that the ratchet isn't turning in the screwdriver's direction.

An orthosis for relief during the body-welding process

Everybody has had it before: Someone who often repeats the same hand gesture, will sooner or later come up with tensions or overuse symptoms. To counteract and to actively contribute to ergonomics, the print experts have developed an orthosis made from synthetic material. It’s used for working with welding machines: A black fabric piece holds the welding machine in place and the employees don’t need to grip it tightly, but instead can relax their fingers. A printed synthetic piece cares for comfort on the palm, connects the welding machine with the back of the employees’ hand and serves as an orthosis that relieves the tendons during the body-welding process. This idea was developed by both the print experts and their body shop colleagues.

Orthese in der Hand eines Mitarbeiters für Entlastung am Schweißgerät
To protect employees at the welding machine from unpleasant consequences due to a overusing their hand, an orthosis is used during the body-welding process.

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Consumption and emission figures of vehicles on this page:

R8: Combined fuel consumption in l/100 km: 13,6 – 12,6; Combined CO2 emissions in g/km: 309 – 287. Figures on the fuel consumption and the CO2-emissions vary in case of given ranges depending on the used combination of wheels/tires. //