Additive Manufacturing is Changing the Dynamic: EOS’ Glynn Fletcher Talks Metal 3D Printing Solutions
EOS may have stood out this week at RAPID + TCT due to its volume of announcements during an announcement-heavy show: it didn’t have anything new to highlight. The company is instead, Glynn Fletcher, President, EOS of North America, told me, bearing close witness to the maturation of the additive manufacturing industry and ensuring that it offers solutions, support, and services to bring the best possible experience to those using 3D printing technologies.
“3D printing and additive manufacturing is going through a change in dynamic at the moment,” Fletcher told me. “Before last year’s RAPID, this show would not have been this big, this professional, this diverse. The industry is growing up. It’s growing out of rapid prototyping, and entering a true production phase. And this brings new challenges.”
EOS is focusing on positioning itself to be at the forefront of solutions providers ready to address these new challenges. While the traditional subtractive manufacturing industry has a whole infrastructure in place, Fletcher noted, this is still evolving in additive. EOS is emphasizing the building of this infrastructure, as new customers begin to look toward potentially adopting additive manufacturing systems. Early adopters were more tolerant of the “overwhelming” nature of being new to 3D printing, and were prepared for bumps in the road in using a new technology; those coming now to the technology are not quite so tolerant, Fletcher noted, because they want a fully supported system with a serviceable ecosystem ready to go upon adopting. It is with these trends in mind that EOS, long keen on establishing leadership in quality assurance, is keying in on infrastructure.
Fletcher has shared previously with 3DPrint.com his thoughts regarding the company’s growth strategies as the industry grows, and at RAPID + TCT he remained on-message. A big driver for EOS lately is its Additive Minds division, which has been working with partners such as Audi to drive forward direct customer engagement to facilitate full understanding of additive solutions. Additive Minds works from the inside of a customer business to make sure they get the most out of any systems they bring in, Fletcher explained, offering advice on design for additive manufacturing, as well as on pre- and post-processing — the intent here is to take some of the risk away, and to allow customers to optimize their solutions quickly.
“We don’t want any customers to regret investing in additive manufacturing,” Fletcher said. “Not just in EOS, but in any company. If any customer does have regret, it will be because they expected more, and set their aspirations too high. They may have been thinking additive manufacturing was the silver bullet to transform their business, without doing their homework first.”
Information is critical when making new investments, and Fletcher returned to the point several times throughout our conversation that EOS is especially committed to ensuring that expectations are realistic, relationships are solid, and support is readily available. Through building this infrastructure, EOS is aiming to advance their own technology — of which Fletcher noted, “We take for granted we have the best technology” — as well as the industry in itself.
“We’re not making any huge claims of 100% faster or 50% cheaper; we know what we have. We are ensuring the infrastructure behind it, and making the investment now to ensure that customers really get what we supply,” he said.
Another piece of this support puzzle for EOS lies in its lifecycle solutions offerings; while Additive Minds addresses pre- and just-post-sale customers, EOS’ services offer longer-term support. This, Fletcher said, provides the resources necessary continually to make the most of any equipment, materials, and services, set to increase the comfort level of the customer. Especially as additive manufacturing moves toward production-scale offerings, beyond rapid prototyping, solutions available must address the unique needs of full-scale manufacturing. In rapid prototyping, for example, if a service technician arrives in a day or two, it may not make as much of a difference in operations as the same delay would cause in production.
“We want to be sure we have the resources in place to have the best level of services,” Fletcher told me, “that we are getting resources and people in place. We can do this because the company is still a family-owned, private business. We’re optimizing for next year, not for this year.”
That look to the future, and to ensuring personalized services, jives well with the reputation EOS has established — and knows it has established — in the industry. Key points to EOS’ reputation that Fletcher highlighted include quality and robustness of its machines, as well as maturity. Now, he said, “It is our job to ensure that you have the resources to get the most from it.”
In looking further ahead, we discussed the nature of Industry 4.0, and Fletcher noted that 3D printing is an important component to that. While, he acknowledged, this can be a bit overwhelming at the lower levels, people are really starting to understand Industry 4.0 — but don’t yet know where they fit in.
“At Additive Minds, it is our job to make sure they get that fit, and to take the intimidation away,” he said. “In North America in particular, this can be a daunting subject, as it is clearly going to impact business. We want to take away the guesswork, support entry points. This is a very important service we offer our customers.”
We have heard a lot from EOS lately, as the company, while optimizing for next year, has been quite busy this year. As metal additive manufacturing continues to grow with great speed — and a pretty high profile — EOS has been looking toward safety aspects, announcing partnerships with companies including Incodema3D and membership in the 3MF Consortium, the Additive Manufacturing Parts Identifier recently introduced with 3YOURMIND to identify parts that are technologically viable and economically profitable to produce via 3D printing, and supporting research into the future of additive manufacturing and robotics. Talking with Fletcher highlighted the seriousness with which EOS is approaching the changing shape of the market. As more companies introduce metal additive manufacturing into their operations, it is vital that all suppliers of such solutions remain engaged with their offerings.
Also hosted at the EOS booth at RAPID + TCT was fellow Germany-based company DyeMansion, which recently announced its own step forward into the North American market. The young company is making some big moves forward lately, and at its second trade show in the US had a lot to show since we last saw them at formnext in November. CEO Felix Ewald and Sales Manager
Share your thoughts in the EOS forum at 3DPB.com.[All photos: Sarah Goehrke]
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