Story by: Sircharan R
EOS, the global technology leader in industrial 3D printing of metals and polymers, is working with various OEMs to set up consulting and training programs in India. This is to raise people’s knowledge to a higher platform and gain experience in additive technology.
“I think it’s very important to bring people’s level of knowledge to a higher platform. Therefore, we are working with OEMs, institutes like IGTR, CTDC, SIPET and many others to see if we can create a curriculum that can be transferred to the engineers and even to the companies. We see a need for learning in additive manufacturing. Even though people know that additives are going to bring something to the market, they don’t know what it is. We are focused on improving the knowledge base in the market, ”EOS India, Country Manager, Anand Prakasam, told Auto Components India.
The 3D printing company founded in 1989 is a pioneer and innovator for holistic solutions in additive manufacturing. Everything EOS does is based on the cornerstones of corporate responsibility and sustainability, both internally and externally. They also master the interaction of laser and powder material and provide all the essential elements for industrial 3D printing. Although the market has potential for growth for the new technology, many consider it a major disadvantage because of the cost. Anand contradicts this statement that it is the perception that is the problem. “
“You have to start the idea as early as the design phase. The first step is 3D printing. If you do some of the CNC design manufacturing and try to 3D print it, there will be no benefit. Because additive manufacturing offers you many other advantages such as weight reduction and less volume per part while maintaining functionality. So if you can design a part and get started, you have a cost advantage. Second, we need to identify the right parts. Not all parts are suitable for metal 3D printing. This is where our consulting department comes in. It offers training for the industry in 2 things. First, what are all the parts that are suitable for the new technology. There is a template and we explain how to identify it. It is the wrong approach if you think we can print any part. Second, after you’ve chosen the part, we need to take advantage of 3D printing in terms of cost, engineering, etc. To do this, you need to redesign the part. We offer this as a training program called DFAM. When these two problems are resolved, 90% of your cost problems are resolved. There will be a 10% problem that is common across the components industry. Additive manufacturing brings a lot of value to the aerospace industry. If you go into the automotive industry, component design may change, but it may not be economical, ”Anand said.
Regarding the investment margin, he said that it could decrease as the number of machines increases. “From a metal point of view, we have maybe 20 machines per year on the Indian market. As soon as that increases to 200 machines, the costs will also decrease. We also have a special model called BOOT (Build, Own, Operate and Transfer). If a customer has good needs and a good utilization, but does not want to invest in the investments, he can sign a 2-3 year contract with us. This is how we find the machine and execute it for him. He has to pay after his use. He should reach a certain usage threshold with them in order to be able to take advantage of this. In this way, the user is addressing the entry barrier of costs and we are the only ones who offer this. “
Old but new
From a global perspective, additive manufacturing is not a new trend. It is already in the pre-production phase. The technology has been around for more than 20-25 years and is used extensively for prototyping. Now it is moving into shift manufacturing due to industries like aerospace, medicine, etc. There is a lot of discussion in India about the maturity of the product and technology to meet manufacturing requirements. More and more customers and companies are realizing that additive manufacturing is here to stay, and they have seen many developments in this area. People have shown an interest in adapting and the learning phase is still ongoing.
Anand believes that many who call this technology disruptive are not true. The technology is disruptive for people who can do this from prototyping to spare parts. Anyone who has a small volume and a large mix of components, as in the aerospace industry, can use this and bring about a change. This is because the number of pieces required would be a few thousand. It will also be disruptive in the special machines. However, this may not be the solution for mass producers of 1-2 lakh pieces. 3D printing can play a huge role in prototyping when it comes to mass production. That being said, the big advantage of OEMs is that they don’t need any tools. You can print parts as needed.
“We’re talking to a company that wants to print a specific component for a motorcycle. The annual requirement is only 5000 pieces and you are not sure about the market for this variant. The market for them could be less than 5000 or they could change the design or even stop the variant. For them, additive manufacturing makes sense because they don’t have to spend a lot of money on tooling different parts. The concept of agile manufacturing and adaptability becomes very simple with this process, ”said Anand.
EOS feels deeply committed to its customers and their needs. System, material and process parameters are intelligently coordinated with one another in order to guarantee a reliably high part quality and thus enable decisive competitive advantages. In addition, customers benefit from in-depth technical know-how in global service, application technology and advice. At its research and development center in Germany and Finland, EOS is working on machines to increase its casting performance, as it is the order of the day. The company is working on many things including multilasers, new materials, larger bed sizes, and machines that can handle high temperature materials. The high temperature machines will help process a certain grade of nickel alloys for the aerospace industry. The additive manufacturing company spends around 14% of its sales on research and development, which will amount to 50-55 million euros.
“In order to set up an R&D center in India, we need to understand the market needs. If the market here grew exponentially, the company would invest in research and development here. This also applies to the production facility. It is currently being imported from Germany. We will have a good price advantage if we set up a plant here. However, this is a niche technology and it will be a challenge to find a local supplier who only builds 20 components per year. There has to be a supplier base around you and they should have enough stores to be motivated to deliver the highest quality. For a small parts supplier, 20 parts a year might not be a big deal. So in order to have a fully-fledged setup, we need more input from the market, ”he said.