Earlier this year, German industrial company thyssenkrupp announced its intention to open a new facility dedicated entirely to 3D printing. The announcement was made in April, and the company stated that the new center would be open by September. This past week, the center officially opened, right on schedule. The TechCenter Additive Manufacturing is located in the German city of Mülheim an der Ruhr, on the premises of a thyssenkrupp steering components facility. Thyssenkrupp plans to leverage its existing experience and research partnerships in its work with 3D printing, which it plans to begin using to benefit customers right away.

Markets the company expects to be impacted by 3D printing in particular include engineering, aerospace, automotive and naval shipbuilding, and several internal projects are already in the works.

“Additive manufacturing is a further step in the digital transformation of our company and an important element of our innovation strategy,” said Dr. Heinrich Hiesinger, CEO of thyssenkrupp AG, at the inauguration of the center.

Thyssenkrupp has invested more than €1 million in the center, which currently houses an SLS 3D printer for plastics and an SLM machine for metals. In 2015, the company set up an interdisciplinary additive manufacturing project group to identify potential applications for 3D printing technology; the team is now working to obtain patents for several 3D printed projects. Thyssenkrupp has already seen big improvements to several processes and components by using 3D printing in initial internal projects.

For example, the team 3D printed a probe that can take gas samples from furnaces, designing and manufacturing it with integrated cooling channels that make it heat-resistant enough to be used in the hottest furnaces, such as cement plant kilns. That design was only possible through 3D printing. In another example, several Marine Systems parts, only needed in small quantities, could be made more quickly and inexpensively by using 3D printing and making them in strong plastic rather than metal.

“For the first time we can focus fully on the design itself without having to factor in the restrictions imposed by conventional manufacturing processes – that opens up completely new potential for innovation,” said Dr. Reinhold Achatz, CTO, thyssenkrupp AG.

With the official opening of the TechCenter Additive Manufacturing, the team is further developing its products and technology and focusing on what has industrial potential. For the next three years, the TechCenter will be managed by thyssenkrupp’s central development department; after that, it will become part of the Materials Services business area.

“We know exactly what materials are best suited to what products and have the logistics and project management experience to help the TechCenter advance quickly. Thanks to our broad customer base we know exactly who could benefit from 3D printing technology,” said Hans-Josef Hoß, member of the board of thyssenkrupp Materials Services. “We involve our customers from the word go and can manufacture parts quickly in line with their individual requirements and in batch sizes as low as 1.”

In addition to the TechCenter Additive Manufacturing, thyssenkrupp also runs two other innovation centers: the TechCenter Control Technology, which is focused on process simulation and big data solutions, and the TechCenter for battery production, which is focused on e-mobility. Thyssenkrupp describes the autonomous centers as “speedboats” to rapidly drive the acceleration of new technology.

The global 3D printing market is projected to grow to $21 billion by 2020, and about $10 billion of that will be generated by thyssenkrupp’s target markets, so the company intends to quickly ramp up its adoption of additive manufacturing. The TechCenter Additive Manufacturing will serve as a model and a nucleus for a larger network of additive manufacturing centers of excellence in the near future. Discuss in the thyssenkrupp forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source/images: thyssenkrupp]

 

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