HP has released its list of predictions for 3D printing and digital manufacturing in 2020. Informed by extensive interviews with a team of experts, this year’s research identifies top trends that will have a major impact on advancing Industry 4.0 such as the need for more sustainable production, how automation will transform the factory floor, and the rise of data and software as the backbone of digital manufacturing.
“The year ahead will be a time of realising 3D printing and digital manufacturing’s true potential across industries,” said Pete Basiliere, Founder, Monadnock Insights. “As HP’s trend report indicates, digital manufacturing will enable production of users’ ideal designs by unlocking new and expanded software, data, services, and industrial production solutions that deliver more transformative experiences while also disrupting legacy industries.”
The 2020 3D Printing and Digital Manufacturing Predictions Are:
1) Automated Assembly Will Thrive on the Factory Floor
Automated assembly will arrive, with industries seamlessly integrating multi-part assemblies including combinations of both 3D printed metal and plastic parts. There’s not currently a super printer that can do all things intrinsically, like printing metal and plastic parts, due to factors such as processing temperatures. However, as automation increases, there’s a vision from the industry for a more automated assembly setup where there is access to part production across both metals and plastics simultaneously.
2) Coding Digital Information Into 3D Printed Textures Will Accelerate
Organisations will be able to code digital information into the surface texture itself using advanced 3D printing, providing a bigger data payload than just the serial number. This is one way to tag a part either overtly or covertly so that both people and machines are able to read it based on the shape or orientation of the bumps.
3) Sustainable Production Will Continue to Be a Business Imperative
3D printing will enable the manufacturing industry to produce less waste, less inventory and less CO2 emissions. Engineers and designers will rethink design throughout the product lifecycle to use less material and reduce waste by combining parts and using complex geometries to produce lightweight parts. This further reduces the weight of vehicles and aircraft to improve fuel efficiency which can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption.
4) Demand for Students Who Think in 3D Will Increase
Higher education is at a crossroads, challenged with competing for enrolment, changing demographics and the need to adequately prepare students for the future of work. What’s needed is a complete mind shift to prepare for Industry 4.0.
5) Mass Customisation Will Fuel New Growth in Footwear, Eyewear and Dental
The consumer health sector will fuel digital manufacturing growth and adoption, as footwear, eyewear and orthodontics applications rapidly adopt 3D printing technologies. There’s a massive application space around footwear that’s very lucrative for the 3D printing industry.
6) 3D Printing Will Power the Electrification of Vehicles
Automakers are increasingly turning to 3D printing and digital manufacturing to help compete in a time of change, as the industry goes through its biggest transformation in more than a 100 years moving away from the internal combustion engine toward electric vehicles. As electric vehicles increase in popularity, automakers will continue to unlock the capabilities of both metal and plastic 3D printing systems to speed up their design and development in order to meet ambitious goals.
7) 3D Printing Will Drive New Supply Chain Efficiencies
The capability to deliver things digitally and produce things locally has not always won out. At the end of the day, manufacturers must analyse where in the supply chain it’s the most efficient to root production – whether that’s near the end users or near the source of material production.
8) Software Will Push the Boundaries of Digital Manufacturing to New Levels
In 2020 we will close the gap between what 3D printing and digital manufacturing hardware is capable of and what the software ecosystem supports. Advancements in software and data management will drive improved system management and part quality leading to better customer outcomes. Companies within the industry are creating API hooks to build a fluid ecosystem for customers and partners that includes purpose-built individualised products.
In an interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking News, Dr. Mohsen Seifi, Director of Global Additive Manufacturing Programs at ASTM International, discusses the benefits of additive manufacturing (AM) in manufacturing and the role of data analytics in AM.
Dr. Mohsen Seifi, Director of Global Additive Manufacturing Programs, ASTM International
Tell us more about ASTM International, for those who may not be familiar with the organisation.
ASTM International is one of the world’s leading standards development organisations, founded in 1898. We have 150 technical committees that oversee about 13,000 standards that are widely used around the world. Several of those committees are in emerging industries, including one for additive manufacturing technology that now has nearly 1,000 members, known as F42. For over a decade, this group of the world’s top additive manufacturing experts has been meeting and working through ASTM to develop groundbreaking standards that have begun to form the technical foundation for the future of additive manufacturing. Furthermore, ASTM International has made a dramatic investment in front-end research to develop even more standards through our Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence, a network of high-profile partners around the globe which includes Singapore’s National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (NAMIC). Please visit our website for more detailed information.
In the Industry 4.0 era, greater efficiency and product innovation are key priorities for manufacturers. How can they leverage additive manufacturing/3D printing to achieve both?
A big challenge for manufacturers is the lack of communication between stakeholders at different steps in the process chain. Smart, digital manufacturing could allow manufacturers to effectively transfer the most relevant information across all stages of product development, from designers to end-users. Additive Manufacturing is an integral part of Industry 4.0 and is an excellent technology for product innovation that could significantly reduce the time for product development through iterative design capabilities.
Also, Additive manufacturing can substantially improve the efficiency of the manufacturing process by parts consolidation. This will enhance the effectiveness of a system as a whole in terms of weight reduction, material optimisation, and reduction in fuel consumption. For AM, digital manufacturing means integrating physical system-oriented manufacturing with digital system-oriented Industry 4.0 technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence (AI), big data, robotics, cybersecurity, and Internet of Things [IoT]). To fully unlock the potential of smart, digital manufacturing, there are still issues to address, which include cybersecurity concerns, data management challenges, and other critical gaps. ASTM uses various roadmaps to develop standards to address these gaps and to meet the industry needs.
Which end-markets do you see increasing adoption of additive manufacturing?
AM has the potential to impact all manufacturing-related sectors—from aerospace, medical and automotive to oil/gas, maritime and other sectors—and we anticipate adoption will increase exponentially across the board in the next 10 years. In particular, AM holds great promise for aerospace/defense and medical applications. Both of these sectors require complex, specialised parts, which AM is capable of producing. More importantly, the demand for AM qualification and certification in these high-tech areas/end-markets is high. This is because successful qualification and certification provide end-market users with increased confidence (i.e., improvements in quality and reduced safety concerns). According to a recent survey, the three most significant challenges to adoption of AM for end-market users over the next ten years are: 1) the certification of finished parts and products, hindering its mainstream commercial uptake in the future; 2) the quality and standardisation of material inputs; and 3) unknown quality of printed components.
What are the biggest challenges when it comes to additive manufacturing?
As an emerging field, the AM industry still needs a shared language and framework for addressing problems. Lack of standards is one of the biggest challenges for additive manufacturing in addition to other challenges such as lack of qualified workforce, limited availability of materials, and the lack of full-fledged certification programs. Standards provide a common reference point to help the industry avoid the time and expense of solving problems by trial and error. For example, there is an ongoing need for a better understanding of feedstock properties, methods for in-process monitoring and control, machine-to-machine variation, and rapid inspection methods for AM parts, among other topics. In addition, standards are a key enabler of the qualification and certification procedures that were mentioned above.
To accelerate the development of standards to address these challenges, we launched the AM Center of Excellence (CoE), a collaborative partnership among industry, academia, and government that integrates research and development (R&D) with standards development. By initiating R&D projects that target specific high-priority standards needs, I believe we can speed the overall advancement and adoption of AM technologies. Detailed information will be available in our upcoming external R&D roadmap, which will be released this spring. In the meantime, our annual report provides an overview of the AM CoE’s activities.
Why is analytics a feasible solution?
One benefit of analytics is that it presents decision-makers with the key information required to make informed decisions. Manufacturers have access to a wealth of data about their products and processes but are not always able to use it. Analytics is a great tool to convert data into actionable knowledge that can be used to optimise product development. In the case of AM, solutions such as data-enabled material screening, build monitoring, and post-build characterisation ensure the product meets its specifications with as few iterations as possible, helping minimise production time and cost.
How will data analytics make additive manufacturing more efficient?
AM generates more data than any other manufacturing field—this data has great value, but there are challenges to extracting useful information. Structuring data in a way that adheres to FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) will be vital to the success of AM. Data analytics holds the key to processing and making sense of vast stores of data, which will ultimately accelerate the AM development timeline. Data analytics is a solution that cuts across all sectors and is already shaping the future of technology as we know it.
Through AI, which encompasses machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL), the AM industry can quickly decode quantitative structure/process/property/performance relationships, which is a core challenge in the AM field. For example, it is possible to use AI to sift through potential AM materials to find those with optimal properties or functionalities. AI can also enable data-driven in-situ/real-time monitoring for identifying better processes. However, to enable these data-driven advances, the AM community needs an AM data ecosystem that enables the easy and secure generation, storage, analysis, and sharing of data. ASTM and America Makes recently convened a workshop on manufacturing data management and schema to identify and prioritise challenges and potential solutions for strengthening the AM data ecosystem.
What is your outlook for additive manufacturing/3D printing this year?
It is very hard to predict the future of AM because technology is rapidly changing, but I would like to see 2020 as the year of standards. There is an exciting opportunity for more integration between AM and other elements of industry 4.0, in terms of automation, robotics, cybersecurity, and big data—creating these links is a great way to connect the physical world and digital world. I believe that the best way to create synergy between these critical technologies is through standardisation to add trust. The more we can focus on developing standards, the sooner we can see these advances.
Here’s how one company was able to develop a cable mount on the front spar of the vertical stabilizer for a passenger aircraft in record time. Article by EOS GmbH.
Unified design of the additively manufactured tail bracket eliminates 30 parts down to one. (Source: Sogeti)
The moment when a completely new commercial aircraft takes to the skies for the first time is always special—and this was especially true of the Airbus A350 XWB. As a child of the new millennium, it was clear from the very beginning that development work would focus on innovative materials and production processes—the goal was no less than to build the world’s most efficient aircraft.
As a technology of the future, additive manufacturing was another possibility that needed to be considered during development. As part of a pilot project, experts from Sogeti High Tech succeeded in developing a cable mount on the front spar of the vertical stabilizer for the passenger aircraft in record time, taking only two weeks from the initial sketch to the finished part. EOS technology and expertise was a pivotal aspect of this development process.
The project specifically involved producing a cable routing mount for the latest Airbus model. The mount was ultimately needed for the power supply and data transportation of a camera located in the vertical stabilizer, providing a view of the outside to passengers and orientation on the ground to the pilots. The product requirements document called for a functionally operational component suitable for series production. This task was entrusted to Sogeti High Tech, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cap Gemini S.A.
The particular challenge in this case was the short lead time of just two weeks. The entire development had to be completed within this time frame: From analysis of the part and of the current installation set-up, a parameter study aimed at optimizing the topology and its interpretation, and the design and production of the finished part. The mount also needed to have as few support structures as possible to avoid post-processing. In addition, the specifications for the component called for integration of the snap-on cable holder, weight reduction, and compliance with the strict requirements for subsequent aviation industry certification.
The conventionally produced component was made up of formed sheet metal parts and numerous rivets—more than 30 individual parts in total. The plug connectors in the upper area were made from plastic, and thus from a different material than the other individual parts of the mount. The aim was to develop an integrated solution consisting of a single part that also included the plug connectors, thereby significantly reducing construction and installation times. The weight reduction target for additive manufacturing was determined by a parameter study based on topology optimization.
For the new component, Sogeti High Tech followed the tried-and-tested development process for designing additively manufactured parts. The project kicked off with an analysis of the existing, conventionally produced component in terms of the upcoming manufacturing process—with an extremely positive outcome. The component’s functionality, material, and previously complex structure made it an ideal candidate for powder-bed-based 3D printing technology from EOS. The design freedom offered by this technology allows complex structures to be produced in a single piece, meaning that a weight-saving design can be selected without neglecting functional integration.
This analysis then allowed the so-called design space—the space that the cable-routing mount may occupy—to be defined. The aluminium alloy AlSi10Mg, which is ideal for thin-walled, complex structures, was chosen as the material. The interfaces to the external areas remained the same, forming the non-design space, meaning that no changes are needed to be made to them. The defined loads were taken as the boundary conditions for topology optimization in the parameter study, providing the basis for a new design.
As is customary, CAE software was used for the topology optimization calculations; by contrast, a dedicated solution for designing structures with free-form surfaces was used for the re-design. Sogeti High Tech created the design itself. In order to meet the lead time of two weeks, EOS calculated the build time and optimized parameters from the topology optimization results using the EOSPRINT software, which created the CAE implementation for the manufactured part while also taking into account the possibilities and limitations of the manufacturing process and the need to avoid support structures.
“In addition to outstanding hardware, EOS also offers comprehensive expertise in making additively manufactured components reality—something that we rate very highly,” says Carlos Ribeiro Simoes, Additive Manufacturing Offering Leader at Sogeti High Tech.
Thanks to the cooperation between Sogeti and EOS, it was possible to develop a component optimized for additive manufacturing that fully exploits the design freedom afforded by direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) technology, while at the same time taking account of its restrictions. This allowed plug connectors for cable routing to be integrated into the design and local reinforcement to be incorporated in specific critical areas in order to optimize the structure. Self-supporting apertures and struts within the component help to keep the effort, and hence, the post-processing costs to a minimum.
Additionally, the mount can be produced extremely fast, whenever it is needed. Manufacturing—performed on an EOS M 400 with layer thicknesses of 90 μm—only takes 19 hours instead of the 70 days previously required. This corresponds to a reduction in the production time well in excess of 90 percent. This is largely because the many individual steps and formerly 30 parts have been brought together in a central component that can now be produced in a single run. In addition, the individual parts no longer need to be constructed and held in stock, which can be expensive. Storage for the entire component assembly is now also much more straightforward.
Sogeti was not only able to save a huge amount of time in production, but also in development. The entire process from the initial sketch to the finished component took only two weeks. This is a phenomenal lead time. At the same time, the design also means greater weight efficiency. Whereas the conventionally manufactured original part weighed 452 g, the additively manufactured cable mount weighs just 317 g—and it is well known that the aviation industry counts every single gram in the interest of cutting fuel consumption to a minimum. The customer, Airbus, was more than satisfied with the results.
“Getting an existing component ‘AM-ready’ in just two weeks meant that we had to succeed at the first attempt. The excellent, proactive collaboration with EOS made this ambitious undertaking possible—with outstanding results,” says Simoes.
(Left to right) The HP-NTU Corporate Lab was officially opened today by NRF Singapore Executive Director Lim Tuang Liang, NTU Senior Vice President (Research) Prof Lam Khin Yong; HP Inc CTO Shane Wall; HP Inc Chief Technologist, Print, Glen Hopkins. At the opening, Prof Lam also presented token of appreciation to Mr Wall.
Researchers from global technology leader HP Inc. and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) in the HP-NTU Digital Manufacturing Corporate Lab has showcased digital manufacturing technologies set to make manufacturing and supply chain operations more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable.
Among them are intelligent design software tools that automate advanced customisation, as well as supply chain models that enable faster time to market while lowering carbon footprint.
The lab also unveiled a new skills development programme aimed at helping Singapore train and upskill its talents in additive manufacturing and digital design – from fundamentals of additive manufacturing and digital product designs to data management and automation, under the SkillsFuture programme.
The Corporate Lab aims to train some 120 working professionals per year through the new skills development programme, which includes the fundamentals of Additive Manufacturing, digital product designs, data management, automation, user experience and business models. The new short courses are payable with SkillsFuture credits and are open for registration.
– Examples of 3D printed products from the HP Multi Jet Fusion printer, which allows for flexible designs with both soft and hard plastic in a single print
With the intelligent design software tools being developed by the lab, engineers can customise and optimise their materials’ mechanical properties more effectively. The automated tools let designers achieve designs that have the best combination of properties to achieve the desired strength, flexibility, and weight. Imagine a customised, lightweight 3D-printed plastic cast aimed at giving patients greater comfort and fit.
Another research project is the design and optimisation of end-to-end supply chain operations. Mass customisation requires state-of-the-art supply chain design for digital factories. With advanced business models and analytics to model supply chains, manufacturers will be able to decrease the time required to identify parts suitable for 3D printing production as well as to measure the impact on carbon footprint.
As a result, manufacturers will be able to scale production of customised goods quickly during periods of high demand, reduce time to market while improving sustainability at the same time.
Professor Lam Khin Yong said, “The advanced technologies and automation solutions jointly developed by NTU and HP are expected to impact businesses in Singapore and beyond, as these innovations are geared towards efficiency, productivity and most importantly, sustainability,” said Professor Lam Khin Yong, NTU Senior Vice President (Research).
A workforce equipped with new design, thinking and technical skills is critical to unleashing the potential of digital manufacturing.
“The new SkillsFuture courses developed jointly with HP also bring valuable industrial perspectives to help upskill and train a critical talent pool for Singapore. This will support the country’s drive towards becoming a smart nation as it faces the challenges of the 4th Industrial Revolution,” Professor Lam continued.
If the weight of PCD tools is reduced, as a rule significantly higher cutting data can be used. Along with design freedom, the possibility of weight optimisation is one of the crucial advantages offered by 3D printing. Due to the specially developed structures inside the tool, which cannot be manufactured conventionally, the weight can be reduced significantly.
New bell tool with low weight, long tool life and best cutting data
An example of how MAPAL uses this advantage of 3D printing in practice is the new bell tools with brazed PCD inserts. Bell tools are used for the external machining of hose connections, among other applications. These connections, for example on turbochargers, must satisfy complex contour requirements. Manufacturing must be correspondingly precise. Existing processes are also subject to continuous improvement so that manufacturing is cost-effective and reliable in series production.
MAPAL has therefore optimised the existing, conventionally manufactured bell tool. Using the selective laser melting process, the inside of the tool has been modified – instead of solid material there is now a specially designed honeycomb structure. As a consequence, the tool is 30 percent lighter and the tool life is increased by approx. 40 percent due to the damping effect. It is therefore possible to machine faster; the machining quality remains at the same high level.
In total the machining time has been reduced by 50 percent. Furthermore, the cooling channel design has also been optimised. The new bell tool is of hybrid design. Using selective laser melting, the new tool geometry is printed on a highly precise tool body with a HSK-63 connection. The additively manufactured part is subsequently machined conventionally. Then the PCD inserts are brazed in place and cut to shape using a laser.
As we move into 2020, we take a look back at the most popular Industry 4.0/Automation and Additive Manufacturing articles for 2019. For your enjoyment, here is the list of the top 10 Industry 4.0 and top five most read Additive Manufacturing articles over the past year.
Due to the co-operation between Ultimaker and igus, the processing of the iglidur tribo-filaments in the Ultimaker 3D printers has become a lot easier. Neither special knowledge nor programming expertise is required to produce lubrication-free, low-wear components. The extensive material tests and the open source software “Cura” make this possible.
The free open source software “Cura” from Ultimaker makes it very easy for users to manufacture their individual components quickly. In just a few minutes, a 3D model is prepared, and after selecting speed and quality, the printing starts.
With pre-configured filament profiles available from the Ultimaker Marketplace, users no longer need to enter specific parameters for their printing material, but still get the best print results at the touch of a button. These profiles are based on extensive tests of the various materials in the Ultimaker printers and include the iglidur tribo-filaments from motion plastics specialist igus, which enable users to print components specifically optimised for friction and wear, such as plain bearings, clamping devices or complex components.
“The collaboration between Ultimaker and igus transforms the processing of iglidur filaments in Ultimaker 3D printers into a ‘plug & play’ solution”, notes Tom Krause, Director of Additive Manufacturing at igus. For this, it is necessary to install the filament profiles in the Cura software, through which the CAD data is transformed into a processable 3D printing file. Experienced users can adapt the provided material profiles to their needs by changing different parameters. The Cura software also allows users to create their own material profiles.
iglidur filaments – friction-optimised polymers for 3D printing
iglidur filaments are suitable for all types of components in motion where wear and friction play a role. Tests in the 3,800 square metre igus test laboratory showed that they have up to 50 times more wear resistance than conventional 3D printing materials. The 3D print with the tribo-filaments from igus is a cost-saving alternative especially in the production of complex moving parts subject to wear in jigs and fixtures, in small batches and special machine construction. For customers who do not have their own 3D printer, igus also offers a 3D printing service for wear-resistant parts, both with iglidur tribo-filaments and with their own laser sintering materials. Customers can upload their data, choose the material, predict the service life, calculate prices and order their individual wear-resistant parts online.
According to Research and Markets, the Global Aerospace 3D Printing market was valued at around $ 1246 million in 2018 and is poised to grow at CAGR of more than 15 percent to surpass $ 2857 million by 2024 on account of traditional materials getting replaced with new high strength materials and lightweight, which is an effective way of meeting the goal of decreasing emissions, reducing material usage and increasing fuel efficiency.
Additionally, increasing demand for reducing the overall weight of the aircraft to improve fuel consumption is further fueling growth in the market. Moreover, 3D printing can be used to customise components and parts used in the aircraft industry by efficient use of the overall raw material with high accuracy, thereby promoting growth of 3D printing market. Complicated components can be easily made with the 3D printing technology with reduced errors. Growth of lightweight and fuel-efficient components has led to rise in engine application under material application segment, which is further anticipated to increase in the coming years.
Regionally, the market for Aerospace 3D Printing is gaining traction and expanding to various regions including North America, North America, Europe, South America and Middle East & Africa. Among these regions, North America is the largest market of Aerospace 3D Printing. The growth of north America market is attributed to high adoption rate of 3D printing technology in the aerospace industry. Presence of regional and leading players in the region backed by approval from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the use of 3D printed parts in commercial aircraft, the market of North America is anticipated to grow at substantial rate through 2024.
Major companies are developing advanced technologies and launching new products in order to stay competitive in the market. Other competitive strategies include mergers & acquisitions and new product developments.
Siemens has signed an agreement to acquire Atlas 3D Incorporated, a Plymouth, Indiana-based developer of software that works with direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) printers to automatically provide design engineers with the optimal print orientation and requisite support structures for additive parts in near real-time. Atlas 3D will join Siemens Digital Industries Software, where its solutions will expand additive manufacturing capabilities in the Xcelerator portfolio of software.
Sunata software uses thermal distortion analysis to provide a simple, automated way to optimize part build orientation and generate support structures. This approach allows the designer—rather than the analyst—to perform these simulations, thereby reducing the downstream analysis that needs to be conducted via Simcenter software to achieve a part that meets design requirements. Siemens plans to make the Atlas 3D solution available through its online Additive Manufacturing Network.
“We welcome Atlas 3D to the Siemens community as the newest member of our additive manufacturing team. Our solutions industrialize additive manufacturing for large enterprises, 3D printing service bureaus, design firms and CAD designers,” said Zvi Feuer, Senior Vice President, Manufacturing Engineering Software of Siemens Digital Industries Software. “The cloud-based Sunata software makes it easy for designers to determine the optimal way to 3D print parts for high quality and repeatability. The combination of Sunata with the robust CAE additive manufacturing tools in Simcenter enables a ‘right first time’ approach for industrial 3D printing.”
The high rate of 3D print failures is a key challenge companies face in leveraging additive manufacturing for high-volume production. Parts often need to go through several design and analysis iterations before the optimal build orientation and support structures are determined. Typically, designers don’t have the capabilities to consider such factors as part orientation, distortion, and heat extraction uniformity in their design. This puts the onus on engineering specialists to resolve such issues.
Atlas 3D’s Sunata software solves this problem by giving front-end designers a quick, easy and automated way to get much closer to a “right first time” build. Sunata is a GPU-accelerated high-performance computing additive manufacturing software solution that can deliver results up to one hundred times faster than other build simulation solutions on the market. GPU-accelerated computing is the employment of a graphics processing unit (GPU) along with a computer processing unit (CPU) to facilitate processing-intensive operations such as deep learning, analytics and engineering applications.
Dr. Wilfried Schaefer at VDW speaks with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News about the technology trends shaping the global metalworking industry. Article by Stephen Las Marias.
Dr. Wilfried Schäfer
Dr. Wilfried Schaefer, Managing Director of German Machine Tool Builders’ Association (VDW – Verein Deutscher Werkzeugmaschinenfabriken e.V.), speaks with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News on the sidelines of the EMO Hannover 2019 event in Germany, where he discussed the technology trends shaping the global metalworking industry.
Tell us about VDW and its goals and mission.
Dr. Wilfried Schaefer (WS): The German Machine Tool Builders’ Association has about 265 member companies, which is 90-95% of the German production chain for machine tools. We are a service organisation supporting our members, which are more or less small and medium size companies—they don’t have so many departments which do general activities, so we support them in statistics and market research, we support them in technical means, and we run research projects. We are very strong in standardisation in all fields of relevance for our industry.
On the other side, we are a trade show organiser. We are also supporting our companies outside of European marketing activities, running technology symposia, things like these. And in addition, we have founded a youth organisation in 2009, which is an independent legal body, but is managed by us. The target of this is to support vocational training—so, writing content for teachers, trainers and companies, and upgrading the content in the field of digital technologies—because not only in the academia level but also on the level of vocational training, people must understand what digitalisation is all about, where it comes from, what it means, and so on.
What technology or manufacturing challenges have you seen or are you seeing in the metalworking industry?
WS: We have a continuous technology development in all aspects of this value chain—the machines, tooling, measurement devices—which is a continuous ongoing improvement by the individual companies, so there is no specific trend in these product categories. Overall, we are all talking about the topic of digitisation—I think this is the major topic for not only the machine tool business but for quite a number of companies in the field of intelligent tooling, intelligent clamping, controller business, measurement devices where the data come from, and also the machinery.
Are there new technology applications that have emerged over the past year or two?
WS: Besides the topic of digitisation, you mainly see that everybody is trying to optimise his processes in various terms, so increasing productivity and cost reduction for the customer. Another aspect is new software-driven solutions for automation. This is a strong activity.
What can you say about 3d printing, specifically metal 3d printing? how do you see that impacting the metalworking industry?
WS: Maybe different from what you could have read from the past years, when people are saying that the car will be printed in the future. We do not agree on this. 3D printing is an interesting technology, offering new possibilities in complex structures for example; it covers a specific need or a specific solution that is easier to achieve than with classical production means. But it is one additional technology besides all the others. That’s our thinking. It has to be integrated in the value chain, which is in some cases, on industrial perspective, different from rapid prototyping.
It is not so easy to integrate 3D printing in the whole chain of product design, production with 3D printing, post-production with cutting, because you cannot assemble a metal 3D printed piece; you need post processes.
Where does Industry 4.0 fit and what opportunities and risks does it bring to the machine tool industry?
WS: Industry 4.0 is not all about machines being connected. Machines have been controlled digitally for many years, as we have a controller; and machines have been connected in flexible systems also for years now. Industry 4.0, in addition to what we do today—you have MES systems to get data out of your system, these are available five or eight years ago (since five to eight years?) —enables us to get new volumes of data that may give you additional information to better control the machine and the process, to predict situations in the machine or the process. This will offer machine tool builders the opportunity to, out of his knowhow of the machine system and of the process, develop new functionalities which are supporting the needs of the customer.
What is the importance of the umati standard for the metalworking industry?
WS: Industry 4.0 is possible to be realised already. You take a machine with a controller, then you connect it to the cloud, and you get all the data. The problem is that this connectivity between a machine system and a software or cloud system or platform is usually proprietary. You have a data connectivity with Siemens, one with Fanuc, one for Microsoft Cloud, and so on. In each and every connection you make, of course, the customer tells you what he wants. It needs additional effort. With umati, we want to realise a standard that will enable you to plug and play machines to the cloud—the machine talks umati, and the cloud understands umati.
What do you think will ensure the success of umati?
WS: Two major aspects are needed. First of all, the controller people and the platform people will offer OPC-UA server and OPC-UA client structures so that you can upload umati easily and connect. This is important and I think we are on the right track. At least on the side of the controller business, around 80 to 90 percent of the capacity of controller producers are within the umati project.
On the other side, of course, it is necessary that the machine tool producers all over the world agree on this standard because it cannot be a German or European standard; because then we will have a European standard, a US standard, and an Asian standard—then again, this will be kind of proprietary because then, some customers would use this one, others would use another one, and still others would use a third one. Therefore, it is important that on a wide, broad base, umati will be realised and integrated in all (their) projects.
What technology developments should manufacturers look out for in the next year?
WS: We have to mention digitisation, because as people talk about Industry 4.0 for quite some time now, you really have a feeling that it has been on the shop floor and has already been integrated. But there is still a lot to do, and a lot of possibilities to take; and these possibilities are different depending on whether you are a component producer, or tool producer, or you are a machine tool builder; it has to fit in the strategies. That’s why I do not see an overall answer to this.
On the other hand, aside from digitisation, there is a transformation happening in the automotive industry. Therefore, those companies who are delivering solutions into the automotive industry have to really look at this and make sure that they adapt their production solutions to the upcoming needs of the customers.
What are the opportunities for growth that you are seeing in Southeast Asia?
WS: They are continuously developing; asking for more sophisticated production solutions. This is also driven by—which is different from country to country—the strategies of the governments supporting industry clusters and industry sectors. In those areas, we see a lot of development in automotive supply, like in Thailand; we see similar developments in electronics production in Vietnam, for example; and so on.
There are different strategies and different developments in these countries; but overall, there is the continuous growth of industrial production.
What is your outlook for the metalworking next year?
WS: The problem is that it is difficult to predict at the moment, because we have influencing factors that are out of, let’s say, classical possibilities to predict future developments. Of course, we usually have some 10-year cycles, but it’s always a question of how strong these cycles are; and what the influencing factors are. At the moment, a very strong influencing factor besides enough capacity is the free-trade problem that we have. This free trade problem, or trade war, whatever you will call them, is between the two largest consuming markets—China and the US. And these consuming markets are consuming production technologies themselves, so this, and other countries as well, are influencing the investment situation overall.
We have to wait until some politicians have, let’s say, better strategies than the current ones. In Europe we have a similar situation with the Brexit, we have a similar situation with the sanctions in Russia, so there’s a lot of political uncertainty, which is influencing our sector. This is one aspect.
The other aspect is the overall transformation of mobility. Currently there is some uncertainty as to how to invest and what to invest in depending on the strategy of the drive solutions–maybe just pure battery, maybe fuel cell, or it might be something else. If these strategies become clearer, then investments—because new car models have to be produced—are going to come up again.