Siemens has announced a $23.98M investment in a new metal additive manufacturing facility in Finspång, Sweden.
According to Siemens, the new facility will be a hub for prototyping, mass-produced additive manufacturing and repair of the company’s industrial gas turbine components.
Aside from the news of its whole-hearted adoption of metal additive manufacturing, Siemens has also embraced one of the major players in the direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) space, EOS, by making heavy use of the German company’s machines.
"Siemens is at the forefront in Sweden and the world of additive manufacturing in the development and production of advanced components” said Hans Holmström, CEO of Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery. “This is a step in a long-term investment in this area, where we have not yet seen all the possibilities. Through this investment, we are building up the skills and experience that can lead to new ideas and developments in the field.”
The Finspång facility will be staffed by only 20 operators and engineers, but metal additive manufacturing could be a huge disruptor for Siemens. In fact, at Siemens it is believed that, even with this relatively minor investment, they’ll be able to shorten turbine production and repair times significantly.
“With this investment we can develop new and improved components and repairs to serve our industrial gas turbine . . . significantly faster,” said Thorbjörn Fors, a global business director at Siemens. “Using [metal AM] we will shorten repair times from months to weeks.”
While Siemens’ big splash into the metal AM market may come as a big surprise to some, the industrial giant has been working with 3D printing and manufacturing for some time.
Late last year, in an interview for Australia’s Imaginables, the company said that they had been using the consumer-grade Ultimaker 3D printing system to speed up the manufacture of railway parts. Stephan Baker, head of research and development for the Siemens Rail Automation division, affirmed that the company is using PLA to transform the way it makes parts. “[We’ve] gone from a 3D CAD model, to a 3D component, to the final metallic component without having to go through the normal process of manufacturing.”
Given that its most recent investment signifies its growing acceptance of additive manufacturing, Siemens will likely continue to be a strong advocate for 3D printing for the foreseeable future. Will they develop new techniques or foster improvements in the technology? If so, Siemens, like GE and Airbus before them, will continue to push the AM state-of-the-art, and that is a good thing for a still-fledgling technology.