Machine Part Giant Schaeffler Unveils Multi-material 3D Printer for Metals and Ceramics

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Legacy manufacturers, like KraussMaffei and Arburg, are continuing to increase their presence in the additive manufacturing (AM) industry. That latest is Schaeffler Special Machinery, the special machine construction unit of the Schaeffler Group, which unveiled a multi-material 3D printer ahead of automatica 2023, the international trade show for intelligent automation and robotics.

Not much has been revealed about the system, scheduled to be available in 2024, except that it is meant to be able to combine metal and ceramics in a single build. We can guess that the printer may rely on a binder jetting technique to combine the two, but have reached out to the company to learn more. Bernd Wollenick, Senior Vice President Schaeffler Special Machinery, had this to say about the new machine:

“Our newly developed system concept for multi-material 3D printing represents a milestone in the integration of additive manufacturing processes into our production lines. This solution will allow customers to use innovative material combinations, integrate new functions into components and tools, and provide a higher degree of flexibility in the design of products and tools.”

The new multi-material 3D printer from Schaeffler. Image courtesy of Schaeffler.

Most intriguing to me is the fact that the company is also involved in electronic vehicles. While Wollenick highlighted the ability to incorporate new functions into tools, we know that batteries can be made by combining ceramics and metals. This is exactly what battery printing startup Sakuu is after.

Unlike Sakuu, Schaeffler has a much more established track record. Schaeffler Group was established in 1946 as a steel bearing manufacturer and grew to become a €13.9-billion company with nearly 83,000 employees. The Schaeffler family itself is one of Germany’s wealthiest, with Georg Schaeffler having a net worth of about $9 billion and the family as a whole once maintaining about $35 billion. The family has a controlling interest in Continental AG and Vitesco Technologies, formerly Continental Powertrain. Schaeffler’s presence is global, with facilities in China, Russia, Thailand, and India, where Schaeffler India is publicly listed on the National Stock Exchange of India and the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Continental is a €41-billion automotive parts giant that supplies all major manufacturers, including Volkswagen, Daimler AG, BharatBenz, Ford, Volvo, Iveco, Schmitz, Koegel, Freightliner Trucks, BMW, General Motors, Toyota, Honda, Renault, PSA and Porsche. While all of these brands use AM in their own right, Continental itself relies on 3D printing quite significantly.

At automatica in Munich, Germany, Schaeffler Special Machinery will be showcasing a flexible and modular assembly line for X-ray tube production as an example of systems used in the medical sector. Foto: Schaeffler

In turn, we are sure to see Schaeffler’s new machine reach a broad range of customers. And because it is a unique technology, it could significantly impact 3D printing at large. Additionally, Schaeffler is heavy in its development and use of automation, meaning that its multi-material 3D printers could be implemented in an automated factory setting alongside other production technologies.

The new printer will be presented at the Schaeffler Special Machinery Booth 311 in Hall A5 at automatica in Munich from June 27 to June 30.

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