Direct Manufacturing Gets a High-Flying Boost

A consortium of companies is working with a German university to advance the state of additive manufacturing processes.


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“The application of manufacturing processes of this type”—and Jeff DeGrange, chairman of the board of the DMRC consortium and senior manager of Direct Digital Manufacturing at Boeing Phantom Works (St. Louis) was talking about direct manufacturing (DM)—“promises clear advantages such as reduced production and process costs, shorter cycle times, more complex component part geometries or demand-driven production of spare parts. Unfortunately, to date, DM still has not gained widespread use in series production and are primarily established as standard processes in prototype manufacturing. Only isolated applications are available on the market for small series, as for instance, in cooling systems or aerodynamic casing components in Formula 1, or in military aircraft like the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, or in special component parts of the International Space Station, or medical applications such as implants.”  But DeGrange, who is also chairman of the board of the Direct Manufacturing Research Center, that’s been established at the University of Paderborn in Germany, and his colleagues are working to change the limited applications of processes including laser sintering, selective laser melting, and electron-beam melting.

The DMRC was established by Boeing, EOS Electro Optical Systems, Evonik Industries, and MCP HEK Tooling, along with the support of the university in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany.  The four founding companies will invest into the DMRC a total of 2 million Euros over the contract period of five years; the University of Paderborn will contribute 600,000 Euros; the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia will invest 1.4 million Euros to improve the University of Paderborn’s research infrastructure for direct manufacturing (e.g., equipment).  What’s more, the state will co-invest up to 3.4 million Euros for DMRC research projects over the next five years should the industrial partners additionally contribute the same amount of funds. The partners expect the total funding of the DMRC to reach approximately 11 million Euros over the next five years.

Speaking of the industrial partners, DeGrange said, “Evonik Industries’ unit High Performance Polymers brings in more than 40 years of experience in polymer production and concentrates on the development of standard as well as tailored material solutions. With EOS and MCP HEK Tooling the DMRC has access to the know-how of two leading DM-system manufacturers, with EOS active in laser sintering of plastics and metals and MCP HEK Tooling in selective laser melting of metals.”