Kicking off the series of presentations at Hannover Messe 2018, Andreas Saar, vice president of Manufacturing Solutions and Additive Manufacturing (AM) Programme Lead at Siemens, asserted that in order to unlock the value of AM, a shift in mindset is imperative.
As a newcomer to this arena, one of the first lessons I was imparted with was that engineers need to be empowered with the confidence to transition into AM because it is important to unlearn conventional methods and re-educate an organisation in its entirety, and not think of it as simply redefining manufacturing or merely printing something. It is much bigger than that.
There are different pillars, as stated below, to additive manufacturing that determine its success, which Siemens has a very serious approach to.
- End-to-end software
- Consultative services which Siemens is in the process of building
- Defining your business model and how much training is needed
- The ability to deal with automation
Having said that, the company finds itself in a unique position to revolutionise industrial additive manufacturing.
The Potential Closer To Home
From an Asia Pacific viewpoint, I couldn’t help but wonder how receptive industries have been with regards to the potential of additive manufacturing. I had the opportunity to speak to Zvi Feuer, senior vice president, manufacturing engineering software, Siemens PLM and gain his perceptions on the Asian landscape.
Zvi: In my opinion, Japan and Korea are moving ahead very fast both by building their own machines and by adopting technologies and by learning gradually. It’s a journey and it does not happen in one day. Vendors and customers, even some that we do not know of, are starting to deploy this technology.
In China, there is the ‘Made in China 2025’ strategy and they are investing in robotics and additive manufacturing and this is part of their agenda. I have also noticed that in some of the technical universities, they are putting a lot of effort into AM, in the form of studies and training.
I did meet in Pune, India some young companies that have some radical ideas about additive manufacturing, start-ups with varying business models, building their own machines and renting them out. What becomes of this innovative approach, we do not know as of yet.
At the moment, there is a lot of knowledge that needs to be accumulated, changes within an organisation that needs to happen to be successful.
APMEN: As complexity pervades the present landscape, Siemens PLM software has been announcing new AM initiatives to help visualise processes. What are customer thoughts and feedback in catching up with this kind of technology?
Zvi: To customers, at first, it looks like it is very innovative. They read about with interest and feel they need to adopt it quickly but then they ask: Which machine should I buy? How do I train my people? Where do I position this machine? Because they eventually find out that if they put the machine in a particular corner, it prints differently from if it were placed in a different corner, due to conditions surrounding humidity and temperature that have a great impact. How then does one calibrate the machine and get the results they are after?
Another thing to ponder about is where do I get the software to help me redesign the parts because most of the parts of today are designed with CNC machines in mind.
So it is not just a question of how do I buy, install and print with the machine, but knowing what to print and if the parts are available to me. It involves an entire chain of design, testing, analysing and making sure the parts are physically functional after they have been re-manufactured and can immediately be put into an aircraft, for example.
To further elaborate on the influence of AM from an Asia vantage point, I asked Bob Jones, executive vice president of Global Sales, Marketing and Services on what Siemens foresees in the future for on-demand AM.
Bob: Right now, we think it’s going to be a significant which is one the reasons we built the AM network, because we think there’s going to be a large community for on-demand to support a couple of things. Mostly, it’s the spare parts industries.
There will be a lot of need where you need to build a part in a certain region, such as Asia and it’s easier to use an on demand print servers opposed to having your own facility that may only print those parts a few times a year.
The other thing is if you think about the ability for a start-up company to disrupt a large traditional industry with today’s digitalisation technology and with additive manufacturing, suddenly now, I as an individual, can take on the largest manufacturing companies in the world because I have access to design technology, simulation technology, and with the print services that are available or will be available, I now have manufacturing available to me.
Fast-Tracking Hackrod, Inc’s Vision for Automotive Design
One of the highlights of my tour with Siemens was the opportunity to meet and listen to a presentation by Hackrod Inc.’s chief executive officer, Mouse McCoy, a man of many talents whose career has encompassed professional motorcycle racing, stunts, and now, filmmaking.
If engineering design and manufacturing were to be democratised, allowing the consumer to turn creator in the automotive space, I believe this is arguably a huge milestone in the arena of disruptive innovation in terms of deep customisation and radical creativity.
Partnering with Siemens, Mr McCoy shared how his team will create the world’s first car designed in virtual reality, engineered to full size with AI, and 3D printed in structural alloy. Hackrod’s factory of the future leverages the Siemens Digital Innovation Platform, affording individuals and small enterprises a never-seen-before ability to yield a product as easily as playing a video game.
With multiple tools from Siemens PLM software including NX software, and the new cloud based collaboration software Solid Edge Portal, Hackrod is developing a platform to give a chance for truly bespoke aesthetic design to prevail with guaranteed engineering solutions. The products of this partnership will illustrate the impact this team will create with access to world class digital design, engineering, visualisation, manufacturing and inspection power.
We had the privilege of being hosted by Toolcraft GmbH, a manufacturing facility in Georgensgmünd, where Christoph Hauck, one of three managing directors in the company briefed us on how Toolcraft faced the uphill task of developing internal quality control standards to ensure a danger-free environment to operate in.
Mr Hauck also stated that in many cases additive jobs involving AM require more meticulous work with their customers, very frequently, for the optimisation of design, and sometimes they would attempt to not implement AM at all.
From what I have gathered, the road to embracing AM is still a rocky one for many companies because they lack the experience internally to do so confidently.
In light of the understandable trepidation, it was heartening for me learn that the issue of awareness is being addressed through a consulting group that Karsten Heuser, Siemens’ vice president of additive manufacturing, is responsible for because it’s not enough just to have the technology. There should be heavy investment in helping drive awareness and education which Siemens recognises is a very critical component in its journey towards AM success.