Oerlikon to Consolidate 3D Printing Operations into the U.S.

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The rearranging of supply chains is developing in an interesting way, as corporate conglomerates establish the necessary hubs for their manufacturing operations. One trend that is particularly unique is that some of these companies see the United States as a crucial node in their 3D printing operations. This has previously included the likes of Nikon and DMG Mori. Now, Swiss polymer processing leader OC Oerlikon Corporation AG (SIX: OERL) has announced that it is establishing the headquarters for its additive manufacturing (AM) operations in the U.S.

Because the U.S. is the largest growth market for AM, Oerlikon is consolidating its 3D printing operations, shifting the center for these operations to Huntersville, North Carolina. According to the company, the decision was influenced by challenging market conditions for AM in Germany, which have limited growth opportunities in the region. By shifting focus to the US, Oerlikon aims to capitalize on more favorable market conditions, including better framework conditions, market acceptance, and a thriving environment for disruptive technologies.

The company’s AM production will be centralized at its Huntersville, North Carolina location, positioning it closer to key growth sectors like the semiconductor industry. The new setup will also cater to European and other international customers, marking a significant pivot in Oerlikon’s global operations strategy. Alongside the production shift, Oerlikon has planned major changes for its existing facilities. The current production units in Barleben, Germany, and Shanghai, China, are slated to be relocated to the US by 2024. This move is being closely coordinated with existing customers to ensure a smooth transition.

Oerlikon AM 3D printed rocket components. Image courtesy of Oerlikon.

Headquartered in Pfaeffikon, Switzerland, Oerlikon is a leader in surface engineering, polymer processing, and additive manufacturing. The company has a global presence, with over 13,000 employees across 205 locations in 37 countries. In 2022, the Group generated sales of CHF 2.9 billion (USD $3.132 billion). Oerlikon’s AM business is a part of its Surface Solutions division and has grown into a significant player in the AM domain, developing and producing novel 3D printing applications for sectors like aerospace and semiconductors.

You have likely noticed that a number of other 3D printing companies have set up shop in the region. While Xerox once hosted its 3D printing division there, Proto Labs, Rapid Shape, Siemens, Axtra 3D, 3D Systems, Collins Aerospace, IperionX, Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing, and Formlabs, among others, have sites in the state. As the Southeast’s most prominent hub for AM, North Carolina not only serves that portion of the U.S., but is located in a key spot to serve the federal government.

North Carolina is just one of a number of AM hubs emerging in the U.S., which also includes Michigan, Texas, and California alongside Pennsylvania and Ohio. Though specific areas of these states represent nodes in the nation at large, it’s interesting to see how individual countries, such as the U.S., Germany, and China, are becoming key points within the global 3D printing supply chain. For this reason, we’ve witnessed a number of international companies ensure that they have facilities in these regions.

Of course, it is necessary for businesses to represent themselves in the nations in which they operate, but there is a specific trend occurring internationally as the supply chain is reshaped to incorporate digital manufacturing technologies closest to the point of consumption. The U.S. has become central to 3D printing for distribution and investment purposes in large part because of the significant efforts that the government and its corporate partners have put into galvanizing advanced manufacturing in the country.

It should be no surprise then that Oerlikon is coalescing its AM business in North Carolina as Nikon and DMG Mori do so in California. However, Germany will continue to play a crucial role in Oerlikon’s AM landscape, with the R&D site in Garching focusing on the development of new advanced materials, surface coating technologies, and digitalization.

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