Audi, GE, EOS and More Found Bavarian 3D Printing Cluster

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Six companies joined the Technical University of Munich (TUM) to establish what they have dubbed the Bavarian AM Cluster. Befittingly this happened at the Munich 3D printing conference, AMTC. The memorandum of understanding was signed by Audi, EOS, GE Additive, Linde, MTU Aero Engines, Oerlikon, and Siemens along with the University. This joint undertaking is a non-profit dedicated to industrializing additive manufacturing (AM). These companies are already geographically close to each other, as Bavaria traditionally has had a very strong position in AM. The foundation will also be colocated at the TUM campus with TUM-Oerlikon AM Institute and other researchers in 3D printing.

“With the Bavarian AM Cluster, the industry in Bavaria is clearly preparing for the future. In addition to the AMTC congress and the AM Institute founded in February between Oerlikon and TUM, this is the third initiative for joint cooperation for the industrialization of AM that we are launching. I am convinced that with the cluster, we are taking a decisive step towards the full integration of additive manufacturing into the industrial process,” stated Michael Süss, Executive Chairman of Oerlikon.

“With the AM Cluster, we are further expanding research and development activities in the field of additive manufacturing here in Munich, thus maintaining Bavaria’s leading position in this technology field,” contributed Prof. Thomas Hofmann, President of TUM.

There is a great deal of subsidy money in the offing related to energy efficiency, supply chain independence, defense and environmental progress. With added pushes from major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), the university, and the region, the group could yet land oodles of cash. Additionally, there has been a lot of 3D printing research and industrialization happening in Bavaria for over three decades. Many firms have sprung up from the area and local firms are advanced users of AM. So, it makes more sense to do this cluster in Bavaria than, let´s say, Dubai. Bavaria, as a whole, is a strong manufacturing economy, with many small and large high-tech firms engaged in manufacturing.

The EOS M 400 metal AM machine in Audi’s Metal 3D Printing Centre in Ingolstadt, Germany (Courtesy Audi AG)

This is also the right time to operate a cluster as well. In the past, the world was focused on shipping and the use of boxes. Now, the manufacturing world features huge chains of intertwined processes. For shapes to be turned into functioning assemblies, AM includes numerous post-processing steps. The industry needs much more control over processes, while also examining conveyancing, developing software, and enhancing materials knowledge. On the whole, this is the exact time to work together to create production cells that can manufacture end-use components.

The assembled group is also the perfect one to industrialize AM. It’s notable that both GE and EOS are a part of this, given their respective powder bed fusion (PBF) technologies and other 3D printing expertise. Oerlikon is a big service and materials vendor, while Linde supplies gas for PBF machines. MTU is a very advanced user of 3D printing in aero engine components. Audi is a nascent user in an industrial setting.

 

A mold 3D printed by Oerlikon. Image courtesy of Oerlikon.

The Banquo´s ghost at the banquet is BMW, the firm that birthed MTU, as well as EOS, practically, by being a key client. BWM has performed immense AM research for over three decades and would have been a valuable partner. Another notable absentee is Bosch Rexroth. Bosch is very active in 3D printing and its Rexroth division produces many motion control components. We could also imagine a company like Knorr Bremse participating. A large train component manufacturer, Knorr Bremse is involved with AM and has a huge potential use of the technology. Adidas could also have joined, along with a Fraunhofer or two.

Another issue is that this cluster is not really an AM cluster but rather a PBF cluster. Metal PBF is great, don’t get me wrong, but it would be nice to also see work on material extrusion, directed energy deposition and other technologies. Powder bed is not the answer for all manufacturing challenges and all 3D printed parts. It’s a good technology for many parts, but binder jet and wire arc additive manufacturing also have their roles to play.

On the whole, this is a great initiative, especially since there is no one else doing something as coherent at this present moment. A few million could go a long way if the home of Oktoberfest could be the home of 3D printing forevermore.

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