A Home for a Digital AM Twin

by Thomas Masuch

Siemens opens Additive Manufacturing Experience Center at electronics plant in Erlangen

In the middle of Siemens’ manufacturing plant in Erlangen, Germany – which mainly produces industrial drive and control systems for other factories – AM has become another part of the everyday routine. On April 10, 2018, the facility celebrated the grand opening of its new Additive Manufacturing Experience Center, which Siemens is using as a showcase for its extensive digital solution portfolio for industrial 3D printing. Numerous user scenarios and the latest production technologies are also in display, including robot-aided 3D printing (or “multi-axis FDM”, as it is also known).

As one might guess, Siemens wants the Additive Manufacturing Experience Center to be a place where customers can get a real taste of industrial 3D printing. “We want to show mechanical engineers and operators what digitalization means for the AM sphere,” affirmed Dr. Wolfgang Heuring, CEO of the Motion Control (MC) business unit within Siemens’ Digital Factory division, at the opening ceremony.

This was why one of the terms heard most often at the event was “digital twin”, which refers to how Siemens is providing a digital environment for all the production steps in additive manufacturing. According to Dr. Heuring, this makes it the only company in the world that “offers a holistic approach” to digitalization. As part of its overarching “Digital Enterprise” concept, Siemens can now deliver a comprehensive portfolio for digital companies.

Its Digital Enterprise Suite consists of software-based systems and automation components that cover all the requirements of the industrial value chain. That includes everything from concepts and engineering to initial operations and service for mechanical engineers, and from product development and production planning to actual manufacturing and digital services for machine operators.

Meanwhile, it’s no accident that Erlangen was chosen to be the home of the Additive Manufacturing Experience Center. Besides already making use of additive manufacturing, digital planning methods, and lightweight robots, the location is considered to be on the cutting edge of Industry 4.0. In 2004 and 2013, Siemens’ electronics manufacturing plant in the city was also recognized as the best factory in Europe.

For prototype production, the Additive Manufacturing Experience Center has a Lasertec 65 3D hybrid from DMG Mori and a multi-axis FDM system it developed along with Hage Sondermaschinenbau. It also plans to acquire further equipment that will make additional AM technologies available on-site.

Siemens used the grand opening as an opportunity to present its AM network, as well. On this platform, users can upload components to find out whether they are “printable” and whether this would make sense under certain technical and economic circumstances, as Thomas Dürr (director of the Additive Manufacturing Experience Center) explained. The network then recommends the right production technology based on parameters such as the material and number of units in question.