Last month, BMW Motorrad announced iParts, a 3D parts-manufacturing initiative that involves a two-pronged approach with the installation of dealer service-center machines and a scaled-down printer that can be fitted and operated from the back of a BMW bike.
Things kick off this September, when 250 BMW Motorrad sales partners will gain the ability to print parts like engine housings and internal crown gears on demand, allowing for a highly efficient just-in-time supply chain from raw material to delivery. But the benefit of no longer having wait to on back-ordered parts or things that aren’t commonly stocked isn’t the only plus; also starting in September, the 3D iParts printer will be available as optional equipment for BMW Motorrad riders.
Specifics relating to the dimensions and weight of the mobile unit itself isn’t given, but it will be housed in a specialized CFRP enclosure that tips the scales at nine pounds fewer than the standard storage box. Parts capable of being produced mentioned in the press release include everything from a rather benign valve cap, while more complex items like a replacement oil sump or even a rear-view mirror can also be printed on the spot.
Quality doesn’t seem to suffer, either, as brutal testing in the Australian Outback and Antarctica in temperatures ranging from 118 degrees down to negative 62 yielded parts that were on a par with their conventionally manufactured equivalents.
Another part of the initiative is an online trove of design data and material specifications branded as BMW iCloud. Along with BMW Motorrad iParts Explorer, which allows for offline, off-the-grid storage of the same information, iCloud allows for on-demand access of the full 3D printable parts catalog.
One only has to wonder how long this tech might take to filter down to the four-wheeled side of things. How often have you spent a couple extra days in your luxurious loaner vehicle, waiting for your pride and joy as progress was halted by a part back-ordered from Germany? Last year, the DCT transmission in my BMW endured a leak far longer than it should have, thanks to a plastic sump that had to come from across the globe. Irritants like this could become a thing of the past with 3D printers put into the hands of dealers and consumers alike; just imagine being able to print that long NLA widget for your 2002 the moment you’ve identified a need for it, in your garage, as things are torn apart on the floor! And don’t forget the quality, which should be enticing to those of us who have played the online guessing game for years.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy of BMW Group.]