Siemens Increases Focus on Additive Manufacturing: Interview with Andreas Saar at MWS17, New Platform Announced at Hannover Messe

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“We believe at Siemens that additive manufacturing is a major game changer,” Andreas Saar opened his keynote Thursday morning at the Materialise World Summit 2017.

Andreas Saar presenting his keynote at MWS17

Saar, Vice President – Manufacturing Engineering Solutions,Siemens PLM, was straightforward in both keynote and later conversation regarding the esteem with which Siemens holds the applications and future of additive manufacturing — as well as the company’s place in that future. From Brussels at MWS last week to this week in Germany at Hannover Messe, Siemens is making waves with big proclamations and bigger announcements in 3D printing.

Yesterday at Hannover Messe, Siemens PLM announced a new platform intended to speed up the adoption of industrial 3D printing as the company looks to global applications and enhancing access to expertise. The new online collaborative platform, intended to launch in mid-2018, is designed to bring on-demand design and 3D printing production to the manufacturing industry worldwide, streamlining the process of co-innovation. The focus here is on connectivity, as the platform will bring together, for example, part buyers and microfactories, addressing what it sees as a growing need for on-demand access to additive manufacturing for production.

“Siemens is one of the only companies addressing the diverse needs of all additive manufacturing market participants – from designers and engineers, to manufacturers, 3D printing machine OEMs, material vendors and software providers – with a comprehensive set of seamless technology solutions for distributed industrial additive manufacturing and co-innovation. Today’s announcement builds on that leadership with a platform aimed at instantly connecting the people, technology, equipment and expertise needed to efficiently address mutual business opportunities,” said Tony Hemmelgarn, President and CEO, Siemens PLM Software.

The ecosystem is set to draw attention to co-innovation opportunities, as the best way forward in manufacturing is through collaboration and through building relationships between designers, suppliers, job shops, and experts with a variety of focuses to create unique solutions customized for a given scenario and need.

“Siemens’ goal is to provide a digital part manufacturing platform connecting all members of the global manufacturing community to maximize resource utilization, grow expertise and expand business opportunity. Connecting product designers, for example, to factories with excess additive manufacturing capacity, can help some members reduce inventory and time-to-market while others build their client base and reputation. In addition, the collaborative capabilities can help facilitate the co-innovation process and accelerate the adoption of 3D printing as a mainstream production method for industrial parts,” explained Siemens PLM’s Aaron Frankel.

Working with expertise is not new for Siemens, as the global giant has been innovating and working with partner companies in additive manufacturing as part of its recent business strategy. The recalibration of strategic moves leads into an overall rethinking of strategy and industry — and this was at the heart of Saar’s message as delivered at MWS17. Siemens is staying consistent with its announcements over the last few days as various of its businesses are themselves turning to 3D printing for solutions while others partner to create wholly new solutions like the platform.

I think it’s time to rethink,” Saar said in his MWS keynote. “Additive manufacturing is a major challenge and a major opportunity to rethink everything. Really allows us to reimagine our product, rethink and innovate our product, retool our factories, change the manufacturing process, rethink our businesses. That is why additive manufacturing we believe is a major game changer. This enormous journey we are on together.

In his keynote, Saar touched on several key benefits of adopting additive manufacturing — surprising no one, chief among them is that time to market can be greatly cut back, as conventional technologies’ two-year timelines can be reduced to two months by turning to additive manufacturing. As Saar noted, “We’re living today in a fast-changing world, we iterate and innovate at a fast pace.” He also pointed out four major value streams for AM:

  • Individualization
  • Product Optimization
  • Manufacturing Efficiency
  • Business Models

Looking to rationale behind slower speeds to adoption, Saar discussed as well several limitations, including:

  • Disconnected software
  • Multiple file conversions
  • Uncontrolled workflow
  • Conventional thinking

Stefaan Motte (L), VP of Software for Materialise, meets with Andreas Saar at formnext 2016. [Image: Siemens]

For its part, Siemens is envisioning a single integrated end-to-end system for industrializing additive manufacturing technologies. Towards this goal, Saar explained that that was a big reason for their integration with Materialise technologies, announced earlier this month. He went on to highlight the critical nature of partnerships in the industry (“This is the only way to drive this technology forward”), as well as Siemens’ work in partnerships with several hardware vendors such as Trumpf, HP, Stratasys, and others, noting that “We will continue to expand with our partners.”

I had the opportunity to speak with Saar at MWS17 to learn more about his vision for Siemens’ place in the 3D printing world, as well as how the industry can continue to grow.

This event, I think personally it is very good, very professional. There are amazing and different topics, the speakers are very good, there is a lot of information and networking. It is good for us as a supplier working with other companies,” Saar told me of Siemens’ appearance, their first at a Materialise World Summit event. “This is a very good event for us, hopefully there will be more like this in the future.”

Our conversation turned to the business of 3D printing, and how the makeup of the young industry can benefit from professionally-focused events like MWS.

The issue with the industry is that it’s still in its infancy,” he said. “Companies are just getting involved. Here [at MWS], many have been working 10 or more years already. A consistent topic here is collaboration and co-creation. It is major to drive forward, working together on technology is absolutely necessary to industrialize.”

Andreas Saar (L), Scott Schiller from HP, Steve Immel from Materialise, at MWS17

Siemens is looking to industrialize for broader use, he told me. The key point he came back to was developing solutions to connect it all. Working with hardware companies like HP and Stratasys, Saar said, can lead to making an industrial standard from a production standpoint. Siemens’ advantage in positioning is that it has its own production, particularly mobility with plastics, and is working closely with business units on development.

“From an industrial and production point of view, it is as they say in English ‘eating your own dog food’,” he said. “We are trying our own product.”

The support throughout Siemens itself is solid, Saar made sure to note: “Support goes up to our Board.” Because the company is united in its vision of additive manufacturing as a beneficial strategic focus, work throughout Siemens is made easier. As he had noted in his keynote and reiterated in our conversation, “Siemens sees this as a game changer.” He noted that this week at Hannover Messe, Siemens would have even more to show, as demonstrated now through the announcement of the new platform as well as other areas such as a collaboration with Adidas for digital production. The company-wide support for such pursuits makes possible the growing focus on collaboration and co-innovation.

“Working with many partners to make a seamless, good user experience,” he noted, is integral to their approach. But the work to be done going forward is not insubstantial.

It’s still too hard right now, you need a lot of experience, especially on the metal additive manufacturing side to be able to use it. It has to become a mainstream application; the effort to get there is still too high. One of the tasks Siemens has set is about the user perspective and as a provider.”

While additive manufacturing may be set to go mainstream, Saar was also careful to point out that it will not be an immediate transition as the industry turns to newer technologies.

Are we there yet? I don’t think so. There is still a lot to optimize in that process, still a lot of work to do, still take some time to make an industrial application,” Saar told me.

“Aerospace and automotive companies have divisions specialized in production, and additive is still a vehicle outside all this. People point to the GE nozzle. GE has about 3,000 engineers working with NX software. It is important to have these tools consistently available.”

While companies like GE clearly are investing heavily into advanced technologies, not all major organizations are. Many companies, he pointed out, “are not exposed to additive in the mainstream industry, in automotive at GM, in energy, in aerospace.” I asked him then how we might expect to see more companies turn to additive manufacturing, and he underscored the absolute importance of enhanced education in what AM can offer. But how do we broaden that education?

“If we educate the design/engineering community on capabilities we’ll get much larger exposure. I am personally believing we’ll see much more to come. More materials, more products, more technology, more reliable systems — these will advance, that makes it interesting,” Saar told me.

He explained that education boils down to two major points in this field:

  1. Companies need to start internally.

“Siemens is running two courses now (overview and detailed), and has Siemens Learning Site. Pushing engineers there. It is up to companies to be sure of training, and this can only come from the top down. We push to offer to our customers.”

  1. In general, countries with academics have to start providing professional education.

“Germany is starting to, everywhere else in the world is doing it slowly. If this becomes more standardized, more training courses, that is how it will grow. It’s necessary that governments and academics take on not just as a research topic, but really a course of education.”

Talking with Saar, it became even clearer than through all of Siemens’ recent announcements and press releases not only that the company serious about 3D printing as a pivotal area of technology for the future of industry, but that the company is strategic in its implementations and has scalable approaches in mind to advance its efforts. From Siemens PLM and NX software to the company turning to additive manufacturing for the creation of critical components, we’ll be hearing much more in the future from Siemens as education, collaborations, and announcements continue apace. Discuss in the Siemens forum at 3DPB.com.

[Photos: Sarah Goehrke for 3DPrint.com unless otherwise credited]

 

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