“Develop entire new systems, not just individual components”

by Thomas Masuch

With Founder Carl Fruth Calling for More Investments in New Products, FIT AG Among Those Turning to New Technologies

The 3D-printed beer fountain FIT AG likes to show off at public appearances also symbolizes the fusion of tradition and innovation that characterizes both the company and its founder and CEO, Carl Fruth. Having been one of the market's key players since 1995, Fruth is already something of an institution in this young industry. That said, he remains a visionary thought leader whose ideas and opinions offer a refreshing counterpoint to the mainstream.

In an interview with formnext magazine, Fruth talks about a shift currently under way in the AM industry. “It's a much different market than it was just three or four years ago. There are a lot of new providers getting involved,” reports Fruth, whose knowledge of the latest additive manufacturing systems is second to none. At the same time, he counts himself among those who sometimes find it difficult to assess each and every new technology. When the entrepreneur in Fruth recognizes potential in a given innovation, he typically sends for sample components in order to determine whether they could serve as a basis for a business model.

hardened by means of UV light

The aforementioned beer fountain is also evidence of how open Fruth is to new technologies: It was created using a machine from Massivit that employs gel dispensing printing (GDP), which is still a budding breakthrough. Here, an extruder applies layers of a special gel that is then hardened by means of UV light. The thickness of the layers ranges between 0.7 and 2.1 millimeters. Besides making it possible to do away with supporting structures, GDP can accommodate extra-large constructions: Those manufactured in one piece can be as big as 1.8 x 1.5 x 1.2 meters.

Since April 2017, FIT AG – which now employs 330 people – has also been among the first to use the additive arc-welding system GTarc 3000-3 from Gefertec, which is capable of producing metal components weighing up to three tons. After conducting tests on the unit until the end of 2017, the company began using it for some initial pilot projects this year.

"We’re going to miss those products eventually"

As the head of one of the leading service providers in AM, Carl Fruth is critical of the large number of new machines being purchased at the moment. “A lot of the time, people are buying a system and then trying to figure out how it works,” Fruth reveals, adding that developing new products would make more sense in his view. “We’re going to miss those products eventually,” he predicts.

His explanation as to why too little is being invested in such efforts is fairly simple. “Companies have a budget for new technologies, but not for development,” Fruth says while pointing out that investing in the latter would be much more efficient. “Engineers should sit down and develop entire new systems, not just individual components.”