The roots of the Swiss tech group Oerlikon date back to the 1850s, when the first pieces of the business were being established, including Leybold Vacuum in Cologne and the F. Saurer-Stoffel foundry in Switzerland. Now, OC Oerlikon Corporation AG (SIX: OERL) is a $3.3 billion materials processing company with over 12,000 employees around the world. Key to its ongoing strategy is additive manufacturing (AM), with which it has built up expertise using a wide variety of technologies, like Nanoparticle Jetting from XJet, and applications, like serial satellite production.
Among them is laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) and Oerlikon AM’s North Carolina facility has just added its fourth DMP Factory 500 system from 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD). The two firms have partnered to apply their respective backgrounds in surface engineering and AM to 3D printing for such industries as semiconductor and aerospace manufacturing. With its North American site, Oerlikon will be better suited to supply customers in the U.S. market with 3D printed aluminum parts.
The latest machine was the result of a collaboration between 3D Systems’ Application Innovation Group (AIG) and Oerlikon AM’s Application Engineering department. Together, the partners aim to offer a validated, certified production process for Oerlikon’s customers. The system features a vacuum chamber for low oxygen content, as well as three lasers for producing parts up to 500mm x 500mm x 500mm in size.
As 3DPrint.com Macro Analyst Matt Kremenetsky has pointed out, the issue of supply chain resilience is now so built into AM’s value proposition that it no longer needs to be mentioned explicitly. Right now, re-shoring efforts are being made worldwide to both reduce energy costs related to shipping and avoid supply chain disruptions as much as possible.
This new supply chain shakeup is not entirely nationalist, however. Instead, it involves multinationals reinforcing their operations around the world with digital production techniques, including AM, robotics, and artificial intelligence. So, while Oerlikon may maintain its headquarters in Switzerland, its North Carolina facility will serve as supply chain insurance in North America. Meanwhile, 3D Systems is selling machines globally such that, in Saudi Arabia for example, it can localize digital production. We’ll likely see Oerlikon expand its 3D printing footprint at its facility in Michigan, the Midwestern hub that is home to other AM companies like Materialise.
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