Some 600 visionaries, technologists and strategists discussed the future of additive manufacturing at the first Munich Technology Conference (MTC).
Additive manufacturing (3D printing) represents a reversal of the industrial manufacturing as we know it. Since time immemorial, people have used tools and then machines to cut forms out of stone or metal blocks in a process known as chipping. “The process is exactly the opposite with additive manufacturing. Instead of cutting away material, metal powder is melted with a laser and then arranged in the desired form,” explains Professor Michael Süss, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Oerlikon. As a result, engineers can now build – or rather, generate – any form they want. They are no longer limited to certain shapes. For the first time, we can now create objects similar to nature.
Additive manufacturing has been used on an industrial scale for some time already, mainly in the aerospace industry and in medical technology. These are areas where a few units with highly individual forms are required, such as engine components or prostheses that can be calibrated precisely to each individual patient. But other sectors are increasingly becoming aware of the potential that additive manufacturing offers.
With the goal of promoting dialog and collaboration, Oerlikon, working with the Technical University of Munich (TUM), organized the first Munich Technology Conference (MTC) on the topic of additive manufacturing. At the two-day conference held in October, experts from industry, research and politics met to discuss the future and opportunities of this technology. It was agreed that additive manufacturing will revolutionize industrial production processes: ideas can be implemented more quickly, industrial components will become lighter thanks to bionic structures and all of this will be done with fewer resources.
“The beauty of additive manufacturing is that you can directly transform ideas into reality,” says Professor Johannes Schleiffenbaum of RWTH Aachen University. “This will enable engineers to be more creative and develop completely new things.”
“Additive manufacturing presents opportunities in terms of economic factors, time savings and the ability to handle complexity on an unprecedented scale. And importantly, additive manufacturing is an enabler for existing processes – it makes them more efficient and better.”
“Additive manufacturing achieves improvements through weight reductions of bionically designed parts. A bracket on an Airbus A350 that flight attendants use to steady themselves can now be additively manufactured with titanium – and weighs 500 g less. Extrapolating that over the 30-year life of an aircraft, this will result in a reduction of 300 000 tons of CO2.”
“Additive manufacturing is still a young technology. But we’ve come a long way. And we are already printing things that people had predicted would only be printed in 2025. I hope that additive manufacturing mass production is not ten years from now, but two years from now.”
“Additive manufacturing is a big investment for Siemens. But it’s also a necessary investment.”
“It took EOS 20 years to sell the first 1,000 systems (1990-2010), another 5 years to sell the second 1,000 systems, and the last two and a half years to sell the third 1,000 systems. Today we have a worldwide installed base of around 3,000 systems. As of 2018, we’ll be able to produce and install 1,000 systems per year.”
“Looking at the industrialization of AM, there is still a lot of work to be done. However, it is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’. Once it happens, AM will bring massive changes in industry.“