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The 4-sector alliance powering 3D printing

A quartet of maestros is required to realize the full potential of additive manufacturing

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By Randy B. Hecht

A beautiful melody can stir passion in our hearts and continue to replay in our minds long after the last note has sounded. When we add harmony and counterpoint to that melody, the interplay of tones and instruments transforms individual performances into something even more magnificent.

That kind of interplay is equally essential to the evolution of additive manufacturing (popularly known as 3D printing). Science is discovering the techniques necessary to convert materials into functional three-dimensional objects, not only for consumer goods but also in industrial applications such as turbine blades, fuel systems, cooling ducts, aircraft frames and structures, medical equipment and orthopedics or production tools and molds. To commercialize these capabilities and realize the full market potential of this new science will require a coordinated effort by a quartet of maestros: government, industry, academia, and associations. Only through their cooperation can we realize the full potential of an industry with an estimated market volume of USD 7.9 billion[1] in 2016 and compounded average growth rate of 27.29 %1 for the next 5 years.

Their collaboration can spark progress at a pace that composers would call presto: at a very rapid pace.  And, this cross-sectoral alliance would not only speed research and development, but also promote a global commitment to industry standards. “To accelerate the development of international AM standards for a broad range of companies and organizations, we follow a coordinated and collaborative approach,” says Ralph Resnick, Founding Director of America Makes. “For the success of this purpose, it is crucial to engage in a worldwide dialog.”

Clearing hurdles, creating opportunity

As its application matures, additive manufacturing has the power to transform industries as diverse as aerospace, automotive, power generation, and medicine. Its prototyping and low-volume production capabilities is already revolutionizing design, engineering, and production processes. However, for AM to evolve into a technology for mass customization, it still faces limitations. Barriers to entry in 3D printing include high upfront investments, long lead times, insufficient process stability and a shortage of AM experts.

“Strong alliances are key to overcoming these challenges and unleashing the full potential of additive manufacturing as a disruptive technology. We need industry, science, politics and associations to play together,” says Professor Dr. Michael Süss, Chairman of the Oerlikon Group. Cooperation and alliances will not only advance the technology, but also further the development of a robust business ecosystem.

Each sector has its own crucial role. Academia promotes the education and skills development necessary for ongoing innovation in additive manufacturing. Industry identifies opportunities to commercialize those advances. Governments must establish a political framework to accelerate the pace of integration and application of 3D printing capabilities. Associations strengthen the connections among these players and promote the technology, standards, and certifications.

Taking the lead in profitable collaboration

Oerlikon has demonstrated its commitment to interdisciplinary partnerships by entering into collaborative agreements with, for example, America Makes, GE Additive and the Technical University of Munich (TUM).

“We, at TUM, have been successfully cooperating with industry and business for decades. Our ‘industry on campus’ strategy builds even stronger relationships. This increases research results and fosters technical and engineering skills of our students,” says Prof. Dr. Wolfgang A. Herrmann. “In the field of additive manufacturing, we see many exciting opportunities for dedicated academic studies and research to be explored. And, we want to be at the forefront of this technology.”

Bavarian State Minister Ilse Aigner is fully supportive of the joint venture. “Bavaria is home to many leading technology companies and early adopters of additive manufacturing,” she says. “Staying ahead as a leading destination for research and deployment of highly promising technologies such as AM will secure jobs and strengthen our economy. Thus, it is important that we set the best political framework, provide the infrastructure and actively invest in initiatives like BAYERN DIGITAL.”

On October 11-12, Oerlikon is co-hosting the First Munich Technology Conference on Additive Manufacturing. This further affirms Oerlikon’s commitment to working with the global community, and the company looks forward to an inspiring exchange of ideas with the conference’s lineup of visionary speakers and participants.

For further information on the event, please visit: https://www.oerlikon.com/am/#!mtc-event.php

[1] Source: Global 3D Printing Market By Technology, Process, Industry, Geography, Trends, Forecast 2017-2022 by Orbis Research.

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