The 2015 Hanover Trade Show was not the first time it has been demonstrated that digital models can be used to produce complex 3D products layer by layer, completely automatically – and that is becoming part of everyday manufacturing reality. Thanks to additive manufacturing (AM), it is now possible to make small batches to high standards, without divulging technical know-how to the outside world. Using AM in industrial manufacturing (hand in hand with Industry 4.0) is allowing companies to explore commercial opportunities far beyond the simple production of products. These opportunities, the challenges they bring, and how to integrate AM into existing production processes were the key topics looked at by around 160 visitors to the 3rd Steinbeis Engineering Day, which was held in the Stuttgart House of Commerce (Haus der Wirtschaft) back in April.
The event turned the spotlight on the impact of the introduction of AM to business processes, alongside IT and business models. During the morning session, a variety of experts talked about their experiences with AM, followed by an afternoon of workshops in which groups looked at topics related to specific projects that are already taking place. These are to be followed up at a later point.
Prof. Dr. Gunther Wurtz (Steinbeis Transfer Center for Management – Innovation – Technology) moderated the event and gave a thoughtprovoking talk on the use of AM. He also explored how there will be a trend toward more modular businesses in terms of products (and their functions) and processes, hand in hand with new business models, and that individual modules could merge back into an integrated solution for complete value-adding processes with a combined offering of products and services.
Dominik Morar (University of Stuttgart) then presented the first results of the Steinbeis Engineering Study, which will be published in the coming weeks. The study was started in October 2014 under the scientific coordination of the University of Stuttgart (chair for general business studies and business information systems 1, Prof. Hans-Georg Kemper) in collaboration with Aachen University of Applied Sciences (Prof. Thomas Ritz) and the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Management – Innovation – Technology (Prof. Dr. Gunther Wurtz). The study confirmed that companies see AM as an enabler for tapping into production and valueadding networks in order to leverage the success factors of time-tomarket and customer-centric production. By fulfilling this role, AM has already had an impact on companies’ core business processes and even their overall business models.
Dr.-Ing. Andreas Wolf (robomotion GmbH) gave a speech on a business case and showed how innovations made by robomotion in laser sintering components can be transferred to the everyday use of robotic machinery, now making it possible to economically design and make not only grippers but also up to 200 other parts. Wolf also touched on the substitution of existing materials like aluminum or carbon-fiber composites and used business examples to show how AM methods can help significantly cut development cycles and thus outlays.
The project presentation made by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Thomas Ritz (Aachen University of Applied Sciences, m2c Lab, Steinbeis Transfer Center for Usability and Innovative Interactive Systems for Information Logistics) took a closer look at 3D printing as a tool for delivering individual client solutions in retailing, raising important questions about the impact of 3D printers one day being available to end-consumers in the shops.
This was followed by a business case presentation by Tobias King (voxeljet AG), who showed clearly how using large 3D printing systems and a variety of different materials can open up new application areas for many sectors of industry. King also drew on a variety of actual business examples to show how 3D printing technology makes it possible to produce models quickly, accurately, and economically – as prototypes, individual parts, or small batches.
In a talk on “3D Printing of Flight Control Components – Emerging Design Principles Facilitate Ultimate Weight Savings,” Frank Schubert (Chemnitz University of Technology), working in collaboration with Prof. Dr.-Ing. Wolfgang Nendel (Steinbeis Transfer Center for Product Development), showed how 3D printing with metals has now reached such a high technical standard that even highly stressed parts can be produced. A recently developed solution was introduced, which is also unique in that it has a reduced mass of over 50% and can be produced at the same cost of conventionally milled comparable components.
The afternoon of the Steinbeis Engineering Day was given over to “Products – Processes – Value-Adding Networks: Optimization through Additive Manufacturing.” The event was so popular that registration to a creative workshop on additive manufacturing and Industry 4.0 had to be closed early. The workshop was moderated by Dr. Jonathan Loeffler (Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum), who first introduced participants to current funding programs offered within the EU and Germany for projects with an AM focus. This was followed by three group discussions on possible funding projects, personal experiences, challenges, and existing possibilities to carry out collaborative projects. PD Dr. Heiner Lasi (Steinbeis Headquarters/University of Stuttgart), Dominik Morar (University of Stuttgart) and Dr. Anthony Salingre (Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum, Karlsruhe) joined Loeffler to moderate the individual groups. Because of the variety of findings that came out of the group discussions, as well as the extremely interesting current issues they raised and the strong interest showed at the workshops, the concept workshop acted as a catalyst for new activities in the Steinbeis Network, with an emphasis on Industry 4.0 and AM.