Companies in Lower Saxony, Germany are now able to receive support from the new Niedersachsen Additiv Centre for Additive Manufacturing, which was officially opened in Hannover on 20 October. The centre will receive 1.2 million Euros from the state government of Lower Saxony for research and technology transfer for a duration of three years.
Lower Saxony’s minister of Economics, Labor and Transport Olaf Lies, who opened the centre, said: “Additive processes, such as 3D printing belong to the most important future topics of production technology concerning Industry 4.0. We want to strengthen the SMEs in Lower Saxony, and make sure our companies proceed on the way to additive manufacturing. To stand one’s ground in the competition, companies must be able to manufacture components made of plastics or metals not only by machining but also using the so-called printing. This is becoming increasingly relevant for larger batch sizes. With the center it will be possible to determine the right point in time and technology. This why the State is happily supporting the new center in Hannover”, said Lies during the opening event.
Niedersachsen ADDITIV – Das Zentrum für Additive Fertigung intends to make 3D printing ready for series production. Four partners have jointly initiated the center: the Laser Zentrum Hannover e. V. (LZH), the Institut für Integrierte Produktion Hannover gGmbH (IPH), the Deutsche Messe Technology Academy GmbH as well as the LZH Laser Akademie GmbH.
Flexible manufacturing of individual products
Additive manufacturing will fundamentally change production technology. In the future, customized products can be manufactured at the price of mass goods – for example sports shoes that are custom-made for the wearer’s foot, or earphones and hearing aids that perfectly fit the ear.
When customized products are no longer luxury goods, consumer behavior changes, too: Then, mass products will no longer be accepted. Companies who do not keep up with this development could miss the boat. Therefore, Niedersachsen ADDITIV wants to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) integrate the new technologies in their production processes.
Information events, workshops, seminars and trainings
A series of information events are being planned, where experts provide knowledge about the fundamentals of additive manufacturing processes. They explain, for example, the technologies available on the market, suitable materials – such as plastics, metals or ceramics – and how 3D printers perform, as compared to conventional manufacturing processes in terms of manufacturing costs, throughput and product quality.
In a learning factory, specialists and executives can try out the systems themselves. In workshops, they can become acquainted with different processes and compare them. During the demonstration events, the experts will show how additive manufacturing works – from the design phase to the finished product.
Moreover, the center will focus on further vocational education: In basic seminars and subsequent training courses, specialists can acquire the necessary knowledge to handle the specific systems at their workplace. Companies who aim to integrate additive manufacturing technologies in their own production, receive free-of-charge support.
Clear requirements, targeted research
How components made of different materials can be additively manufactured, and how 3D printers can be combined with classical manufacturing processes, is being investigated by the scientists at the LZH and IPH, within the scope of Niedersachsen ADDITIV.
"We want to make 3D printing ready for series production. This means we have to solve exactly those problems that companies are facing today”, says Dr. Malte Stonis, CEO of the IPH. Much is already possible using existing technologies, but the 3D printers available today are limited to a small number of materials, and they can only manufacture relatively small products. “This is what we want to change”, adds LZH Executive Director Dr. Dietmar Kracht. “Commercially available materials, for example stainless steel and aluminum alloys, polyamides and special materials such as magnesium play an important role in the manufacturing industry. Now it is our task to develop customized additive manufacturing processes.”
Economic efficiency of additive processes
However, technical feasibility alone is not enough. Technology transfer to industry can only be successful when economic advantages are convincing, too. Therefore, the IPH and LZH, together with the SMEs, will also take a close look at the economic efficiency of the additive processes– from material consumption, to investment costs for the systems, to process speed.
In that way, the center will develop the additive processes of the next generation for widespread use in industry – and make Lower Saxony’s SMEs the pioneers of additive manufacturing.
The first events have already been scheduled:
- “Additive Manufacturing: Chances for SMEs", January 25th, 2018
- “The potential of additive manufacturing of plastic materials", March 14th, 2018
- "The potential of additive manufacturing of metals", May 23rd, 2018
All events are held in German. Events in English are available upon request.
Interested companies will find all information about Niedersachsen ADDITIV as well as information on registration for the first events at www.niedersachsen-additiv.de.