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. In relation to logistics: What about the optimization of logistics chains? Can materials, spare parts and even an entire product be sent as data across continents and be simply printed out at the end point?
Will I be sending the parts around the world or the data? Will I have to maintain huge spare parts warehouses? Or will an on-site 3D printing system suffice? These are areas that offer potential savings in the billions. Just consider conventional manufacturing where a lot size 1 is only possible in a very complex and expensive manner. If you need a spare part today, you often have to produce 100 pieces and store 99 of them. That isn’t necessary with 3D printing. Delivering spare parts on demand is an exciting field for our technology.
Are there any applications for it yet? How might this work exactly?
In the future, we could see an industrial 3D printer for spare parts in every automotive workshop. That may sound futuristic but when a large system shuts down and the supply of spare parts is jeopardized, companies will seriously consider using the technology for cost reasons. The same applies to a defective component on an oil platform that causes a production shutdown, resulting in millions of barrels of lost production per day.
More flexibility and agility for intelligent production and supply chains
How about local business prospects?
When I have local partners for further processing, I can send component data anywhere. This can make less attractive regions more interesting. Governments are promoting AM technology for this very reason, because they see an opportunity to increase the attractiveness of their specific locations. Established production chains that are optimized to efficiently send goods across supply chains worldwide will benefit from 3D printing. The digitalization sweeping across industry, known as Industry 4.0, will enable still more flexibility and agility for intelligent production and supply chains.
How is additive manufacturing evolving? How is EOS evolving?
We’re just scratching the tip of the iceberg. The global market for machine tools today is in the range of three-digit billion euros per year, while the market for 3D printing is approximately €5 billion. However, this technology delivers real advantages for a range of components such as a hip joint prosthesis or components in aircraft turbines, with a comparable market value.
And EOS? Our goal is to think in terms of series production. Today, our technology is already competitive with five-digit lot sizes, including the added value that only this technology can provide. I don’t believe in 3D printing for home use; I believe in the integration of 3D printing in industrial manufacturing chains. The market structure is also changing. Three years ago, it was only the pioneering companies like EOS that offered AM solutions. Now all major mechanical engineering companies are becoming involved. It is important to use our EOS DNA to compete. We are well positioned and are looking very optimistically toward the future.
The first part of the interview you can read here.