Enhancing production efficiency with 3D-Printing

The question of whether or not 3D-Printing is a media hype or a real industrial revolution, was clearly answered by Prof. Claus Emmelmann: “The Industrial 3D-Printing Revolution has already started. Today new technologies are being developed that can make current laser printing up to 1,000 times faster.” Here, he
expects to see other technology breakthroughs over the next ten years.

At least, that’s the prediction. But even today, 3D-Printing is already being applied to develop new products in Prof. Emmelmann’s institute. From artificial hip joints, that can more quickly fuse with bone tissue due to their material structure, to intergrated ALM fuel connectors: 3D-Printing techniques are providing convincing results in practical tests. Plus, they off er clear benefits. Thanks to the integrated design of fuel
connectors for example, the number of their components was reduced from 14 to 1, and production steps were reduced from 18 to 5 – as a result, manufacturing costs were reduced by 50 %.

Bionics unites opposites
In addition, component delivery times were also reduced – from 96 weeks for conventional production methods to only 22 weeks for the new additive methods using 3D-Printing. Plus, Prof. Emmelmann described the added benefits of increased design flexibility, lower use of material resources, increased durability and weight reductions. In the end, bionic methods helped scientists at Hamburg’s Laser Center North to unite these apparent opposites and use 3D-Printing to develop market-ready products. For example, a support fitting for Airbus was redesigned using the bionic structure of bamboo and was found to be both lighter and stronger. Following additional tests, Airbus also confirmed these results.

New roles for employees
So how might these revolutionary manufacturing methods change our working life? Here, Dr. Sebastian Schlund presented the results of his institute’s study on “Production Work of the Future – Industry 4.0.” According to that study, in the near future employees will have three main roles: They will be decision-makers, sensors (i.e. receive and send information) and players (i.e. control and adjust complex processes). Here, the question was asked: Won’t that overwhelm individual employees? And the answer was: “We’re most competitive at the highest level.” “Our technicians are extremely creative, if we let them,” said Prof. Emmelmann during the discussion, which was moderated by Stefanie Anhalt from Germany’s SWR TV network. Here, Oliver Herkommer praised Germany’s current dual-training methods, but warned about the effects of “overly academic” qualifications: “For flexible production processes we need well trained workers.”

Production networks will completely change
In the end, Herkommer stuck his finger right in an open wound: “In the next five to ten years, our production network will completely change. And in Germany, our future ability to compete is being threatened by today’s excessive energy and labor costs.”
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