"Approach the Topic with an Open Mind"
Interview: Thomas Masuch; Photo: VDMA
In June 2017, formnext and the Working Group Additive Manufacturing (AG AM) within Germany's Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA) entered into a new partnership. This paved the way for the AG AM to become formnext's conceptual sponsor. In an interview, Dr.-Ing. Markus Heering, CEO of AG AM within the VDMA, talks about the new partnership and how the industry is developing.
Mr. Dr. Heering, what gave you the incentive to become the conceptual sponsor of formnext?
HEERING: We've been in contact with formnext and the organizer, Mesago Messe Frankfurt, for some time. After all, formnext has become the most important additive manufacturing exhibition in Europe, and due to its high level of innovation, even a global leader. It's the right platform for us to drive the industry even further forward. The desire to strengthen the collaboration came directly from our group of members.
How is the AG AM structured within the VDMA, and what goals do you have?
HEERING: We have around 120 members. Besides machine and equipment manufacturers, our members include users, suppliers, and universities. Our goal is to strengthen the integration of additive manufacturing into industrial processes even further. How this can be done successfully is something we'll be showing at formnext using best-practice examples.
»Our experience shows that a growing number of industrial companies are using additive manufacturing and achieving success with it.«
Where do you see the current challenges in industrial use of additive manufacturing, and how do you expect the industry to develop?
HEERING: A huge challenge for industrial integration is to interlink all of the process steps of additive manufacturing. One example is the area of software, where we need a solution that enables data exchange across machines and processes. The construction business, too, is facing a challenge. Additive manufacturing is useful particularly where additional functions can be created by this manufacturing technology. However, for decades, engineers have learned how to design for traditional manufacturing techniques. If manufacturing technology becomes faster at the same time, then we'll continue to experience this high level of growth in the coming years.
Within the entire VDMA, you're in close contact with industrial companies from different industries. How are they responding to additive manufacturing?
HEERING: Just like everywhere else in life: many companies are informing themselves and using this technology, while others are still achieving success in the market with conventional methods. But our experience shows that a growing number of industrial companies are using additive manufacturing and achieving success with it.
What would you recommend for midsize companies with regard to additive manufacturing?
HEERING: Whether the technology is worthwhile depends on the product and the company. There's little point in taking a conventionally manufactured component to the exhibition, for example, with the aim of producing it using additive manufacturing methods. What's important is to think differently: this topic needs to be approached with an open mind. All things considered, it's highly recommended to learn more about the technology.
Mr. Dr. Heering, thank you for taking the time to talk to us.