Professor Claus Emmelmann, Director of Fraunhofer IAPT, talks to Hamburg News about 3D

On January 1, 2018, the optical specialist LZN Laser Zentrum Nord joined the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft as the Institute for Additive Production Technology (IAPT). When the location agreement between the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft and the City of Hamburg was signed sealing expanded activities in 3D printing and nanotechnology over the next five years, Katharina Fegebank, Senator for Science, Research and Equality, noted: "Hamburg is well on the way to become a leading centre of research and innovation in Europe. 3D printing and nanotechnology are future-orientated fields which are important catalysts of innovation and our city's development."

Later in February, Hamburg launched a 3D network including IAPT to promote the technology among firms and research institutes. Hamburg News spoke to Professor Dr.-Ing. Claus Emmelmann, formerly Managing Director of Laser Zentrum Nord GmbH and now Director of IAPT, about additive production and 3D printing.

Hamburg News: Congratulations on joining the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Professor Emmelmann. That's a great success for LZN, which you have managed for many years now. Can you outline IAPTbriefly?

Professor Emmelmann: The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is the world's leading applied research organisation. IAPT is an application-orientated research facility for developing 3D printing technology. Our research emphases are on design, processes, factory planning and digitalisation. Apart from research, our priority is to introduce SMEs to future-orientated 3D printing in our "Additive Academy", where we train 500 industrial employees per year - including Bugatti's engineers. Developers at Bugatti have designed a new brake caliper made of titanium that can be 3D printed. Trials for use in series production vehicles are being undertaken in the first half of 2018.

Hamburg News: SMEs are wary of huge investments in 3D printing. Is that why IAPT is offering free, special services?

Professor Emmelmann: Indeed we have created a platform at IAPT to remove obstacles to innovation and to pave companies' paths towards the new technologies and to help them identify when and where certain components can be 3D printed. We offer this support to SMEs in the first phase of IAPT free of charge. Conversely, we note the potential of the respective company and discuss the next steps such as re-engineering i.e. improved reproduction of individual parts.

Hamburg News: What makes 3D printing so revolutionary?

Professor Emmelmann: Components are not geometrically designed i.e. moulded, drilled or milled in 3D printing. The process is additive and built up in layers. Arbitrary constructions of unimaginable complexity and bionic constructions inspired by nature are now possible. The resulting advantage is economically and ecologically revolutionary. Weights can be reduced by 80 per cent. A single kilo saved aboard an aircraft means a reduced CO2 emission of six tons and in terms of an aircraft's life span, we are talking about half a million litres less in kerosine to give just one example. That's just the start. 3D printing holds enormous potentail for growth rates. A study by Roland Berger in 2016 forecast more than 40 per cent annual industrial growth worldwide.

Hamburg News: Where will 3D printing be used predominantly in future? Where do the opportunities and emphases lie in Hamburg?

Professor Emmelmann: 3D printing will be used mainly in constructing aircraft, automobiles and ships as well as in machinery industry and medical technology. 3D printing has many diverse advantages such as greater fitting accuracy and longevity over traditional implant production. A bionic implant has improved isoelastic features and can remain longer in the body. Hamburg's opportunities lie in aircraft construction, in which we have a clear lead. LZN was a co-operating partner of Airbus and among the finalists for the German Business Innovation Award in 2014 and the German Future Prize in 2015. The new technologies hold opportunities for many companies and not just big players like Airbus. Large companies generally work closer with sub-suppliers, but that do not have sufficient expertise. That opens up opportunities for building new skills. Developing such skills is an important feature of the location. Many international companies are showing keen interest in settling here and benefitting from the expertise and our competitive edge. That makes Hamburg an even more attractive location. 

Interview by Yvonne Scheller

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