Editorial 01 2017

by Sascha F. Wenzler

Have you ever come across the names Antonio Meucci or Josef Ressel? Both were brilliant inventors in their day, but success and the fame that comes with it were, unfortunately, not to be. Upon unveiling his device for long-distance voice communication in New York in 1860, the Italian-born Meucci found himself too strapped for cash to apply for a patent. A certain Alexander Graham Bell was thus free to secure his own patent on the telephone 16 years later. Meanwhile, fortune didn’t smile much brighter on Josef Ressel’s innovative career. A forester born in Bohemia (in what is now the Czech Republic), Ressel spent his free time building a ship propeller that was much more efficient than the paddle-wheel systems commonly used at the time.

During the propeller’s much-heralded trial run, however, the steam engine powering it broke down. When Ressel went on to showcase his invention in France, he also failed to protect it against copycats, which opened the door for others to filch his fortune and fame. Ressel sought legal recourse in numerous cases, but these only ended up costing him the wealth he did have; he then died essentially penniless 160 years ago. These days, companies typically keep their (often highly cost-intensive) developments and innovations under lock and key. At the same time, the way in which we deal with innovations has also evolved, particularly in the world of Additive Manufacturing and intelligent production.

After all, those looking to achieve long-term success have to do more than just imitate others. The industry is much too vibrant – its latest developments, too fleeting. Unlike in the case of the tragic stories above, most companies in our industry have also realized that they can accomplish their goals through collaboration. In today’s additive sector, Meucci and Ressel would have remained in demand as experts even after losing control of their inventions. Both would surely be highly respected innovators working in promising positions at one of the industry’s up-and-coming firms.

The salaries specialists like these can currently earn is, by the way, another topic covered in this issue. You can also learn a great deal about the industry’s latest innovations – those coming out of Audi’s metal 3D printing center in Ingolstadt, for instance, which we recently toured to bring you an exclusive behind-the-scenes report.

I hope you find plenty of inspiration in this edition of »fon«-magazine. Enjoy the read!

Sascha F. Wenzler
Vice President formnext