Major 3D Printing investments made by large companies in 2018

BMW 3D printed automotive part

Over the past few months, some of the largest companies in the world have announced large investments on additive manufacturing and some really interesting partnerships. These recent announcements will certainly push forward research and development of new industry grade materials and technologies and broaden the spectrum of additive manufacturing applications. Most importantly, it is one more step forward into the consolidation of 3D printing as a powerful manufacturing technique.

For all 3D printing enthusiasts this is one more confirmation that the technology is here to stay and will continue shaping the future of manufacturing for the years and decades to come. As for the ones who are still waiting to see where the manufacturing revolution is going, perhaps now it is the time to start thinking about jumping on the bandwagon before it is too late.

Three New Additive Manufacturing Facilities

Three major players in their respective fields have announced the construction of their own Additive Manufacturing facilities in a move that will position these companies and their partners at the forefront of the manufacturing revolution. 

On November 2017, Siemens announced it would award a $135 million industrial grant to Swinburne University of Technology for the creation of an Industry 4.0 TestLab. The facility’s main focus will be on the multilayer process of industrial scale 3D printing with carbon composites. However, the testlab will also allow the Australian university to further its expertise and research on industrial automation, IoT and other new generation of additive manufacturing technologies and materials.

A few months later, on February 2018, it was Johnson&Johnson’s turn to announce the launch of a Global Centre of Excellence for 3D bioprinting at the Trinity College Dublin, in Ireland. The new facility, which is a collaboration between the medical device and pharmaceutical giant and AMBER research, will serve as a 3D bioprinting research laboratory. Expected to be operational before the beginning of 2019, the facility will also conduct research in the field of orthopaedics and is expected to transform the deliver of healthcare services for patients and consumers.

Fast forward to April 2018 and the newest investment announcement in a dedicated facility for Additive Manufacturing came from BMW. The German automotive giant disclosed an investment of €12.3 million in a new Additive Manufacturing Campus, located north of Munich, which is expected to open in the beginning of 2019.

BMW’s Additive Manufacturing Campus

As reported by the BMW group, the Additive Manufacturing Campus will be located in a building with an area of over 6000m2 on the municipality of Oberschleissheim. The facility will have capacity to accommodate up to 80 business associates and will be equipped with more than 30 additive manufacturing industrial systems for the production of metal and plastic parts.

BMW additive manufacturing center
Photo: Additive Manufacturing Campus, BMW

The Campus will be mainly focused on building prototypes, serial productions batches and customized components and solutions. It will also provide BMW’s engineers and designers with infrastructure to conduct research and development activities, offering optimal conditions for testing breakthrough solutions in the field of 3D printing. In addition, the new facility will guarantee a new level of interdisciplinary cooperation and training between BMW’s teams, giving the opportunity for knowledge exchange and networking on different stages of the supply chain.

The new production center is a continuation of BMW’s additive manufacturing efforts for the development and manufacturing of automotive parts, which started in the early nineties. The company already owns an Additive Manufacturing Center, located at the headquarters of the BMW Group in Munich, and produces around 100 000 3D printed components per year. The production varies from prototypes produced in FDM technology to final components spatially printed in metal powders.

The creation of Additive Manufacturing Center is presumably the effect of many different projects started by BMW. For instance, the using 3D printing to personalize components for the MINI or other cars that were withdrawn from production years ago or BMW’s new model, the i8 Roadster, which some parts were printed in metal.

As per Jens Ertel, head of the Additive Manufacturing Center, the new campus will be a milestone in additive manufacturing at the company. It will become the place to assess both novelty and already existing solutions regarding 3D printing technologies. The overriding aim is the optimization of additive manufacturing in such a way that it is equally affordable for the production of single components, small series and large-scale production.

BMW is not afraid about venturing into the field of additive manufacturing and we can say the group is rather successful at it. Not only the company equips new car models with 3D printed components, but also boldly invests in companies working with the technology. For instance, along with Google and GE, BMW was one of the seven investors who offered giant financial support 3D printing startup Desktop Metal.

The Innovation and Interaction Centre for Additive Manufacturing

Another large company who is looking at strengthening its position on the 3D printing world is Henkel, a major player in the field of materials. Henkel’s business unit of Adhesive Technologies is responsible for strategic partnerships aiming at the expansion of the company’s materials portfolio which support the development of new machines. The company has been announcing a series of partnerships for the joint development of new industrial 3D printing solutions. The latest ones include a cooperation with Carbon3D and HP.

The recently announced partnership with Carbon3D seems to be fruit of a positive collaboration last year. Carbon3D, a startup based in Silicon Valley, works with 3D printing technologies from model preparation to post-processing. Their portfolio includes printers, washers and filaments. In September 2017, Carbon3D announced it was starting to offer resins in bulk packaging – thanks to the joint development of a meter mix and dispense device (MMD). The new partnership will extend the development of new materials and specialized dispensing equipment but also includes Henkel’s development of customized Loctite resins for the American’s startup printers.

Henkel Loctite Carbon3D
Photo: Loctite Resins, Henkel

As for the cooperation with HP, it refers to the development of new 3D printing powdered materials for HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology. The companies have already been collaborating for some time as Henkel is the main reseller of HP’s Jet Fusion solutions in the world.

This is not the first time Henkel stresses its growing share on the additive manufacturing market. Over a year ago , the company announced it was going to use its experience in glues and adhesives products to start supplying materials for 3D printing. The move came with no surprise since Henkel is a leading global supplier of polyacrylates, silicones, epoxy resins and polyurethanes – materials that are commonly used in the medical and automotive industry.

In March 2018, the company announced a cooperation with the Bossard Group, which is specialized on the production of screws, bolts and other joining elements, to work on machines and materials for SLA 3D printing.

All these announcements and partnerships prove that Henkel has noticed the potential of additive technologies and took action at the right moment. Thus, it comes as no surprise that in the fall of 2017 the company announced an investment of €18millions to establish The Innovation and Interaction Centre for Additive Manufacturing in Tallaght, Ireland. The Center is the result of the company’s four-year investment plan, which was aiming to increase research opportunities as well as the application of additive manufacturing in process and product development.

The Centre’s location was chosen due to being closely connected to the medical industries and renowned academic institutions in the surroundings. Tallaght is to become the main European center of Henkel’s additive manufacturing technology department, providing services of 3D printing, as well as presentations, trainings, workshops, testing and customer service.

The area of Henkel’s new complex is around 700m2 filled with specialist laboratories, rooms adapted to work with additive technology devices, customer service offices, conference rooms among others. In the next few years, the company plans to gradually expand the building and increase the number of devices in their machine park.

Nevertheless, the leading vision of researchers working in the Innovation and Interaction Center for Additive Manufacturing is working on the new, high-performance materials, which may be used in the industrial applications.