We have spoken with Adrian Keppler, the new CEO and spokesperson for the Management Board of EOS GmbH, about additive manufacturing (AM) and its fundamental impact on production, logistics and geopolitics.
Additive manufacturing is attracting a lot of attention these days. Where do you see crucial areas of application?
As a company, EOS has been working on additive manufacturing since 1989, although the technology has been a topic among experts for quite some time. It’s important to distinguish between consumer goods-oriented applications and industrial 3D printing, which is our business. Our goal is to optimize the functionality of series components manufactured today with conventional technologies, such as turning, grinding, milling and casting.
We want to generate added value to industrial processes.
What are the main advantages of industrial 3D printing?
With our technology, companies can do many things: making objects more easily (a part no longer consists of hundreds of components, but just a few); designing objects with functional integration such as joints that are integrated directly into the component; using materials such as alloys that are difficult to weld and are also difficult to work with conventionally; and customizing objects and making lot size 1 or variants easy to manufacture. Even complex workpieces that typically take days to make can be produced within a few hours. This time-to-market aspect can be a decisive competitive factor. In general, additive manufacturing offers a high degree of design freedom; a manufacturing-oriented design results from an application-oriented design.
Triad consisting of the system, material an process
But you don’t just develop the hardware, correct?
We don’t supply a “copier” but a manufacturing technology. For this, we offer all relevant elements from a single source. What we are talking about here is a triad consisting of the system, material and process. We also offer customers service and consulting, assisting them throughout the entire life cycle, from part selection via the validation of the manufacturing process to the upscaling of production.
The question in recent years has mostly been: Can our technology do that? By this, we mean complex internal structures, lightweight construction, functional integration, micro-components and the like. Additive manufacturing can do all of this. But we don’t want to completely replace conventional production processes; on the contrary, we want to complement them. More and more customers are also asking: Can you help us figure out what we should do? We jointly develop strategies to enable our customers to differentiate themselves from the competition by using 3D printing.
Most of your customers are innovators with large complex development laboratories. Why do they need EOS?
Companies such as Siemens, General Electric and BMW have also been working on this technology and have plenty of expertise. But occasionally they reach their limits and approach us for support. We have installed around 2,500 systems at customers’ premises—more than all our competitors combined. We also have more than 400 engineers specialized in 3D printing, while our customers employ only a fraction of such experts.