Once considered a niche technology, additive manufacturing (AM) is now a strategically important mainstream technology for a growing field of industries. Together with two key customers, Siemens recently briefed ARC analysts on its strategy to bring AM to a new level of productivity. The briefing took place via webcast with partner companies ExOne and DMG Mori from Siemens’ AM Experience Center in Germany. This ARC View summarizes that strategy and highlights several AM use cases.
- Siemens’ AM business offers a complete portfolio that reaches across the entire AM value chain, creating a best-in-class market position that appears to be unique in the AM market.
- Siemens has made a strong commitment to AM and currently delivers cutting-edge AM automation technology supported by end-to-end software. According to ARC market research, the AM market was growing at low double-digit rates prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Siemens claims to be growing faster than the market.
- Partnerships with machine builders and end users are key to the success of industrializing AM.
- Siemens’ Additive Manufacturing Experience Center is an important part of the company’s strategy to create visibility for its AM strategy. The company uses the Center to closely monitor machinery innovation trends and adapt its AM technology to changing needs.
Additive Manufacturing Technology: More than the Sum of Hardware and Software
At Siemens Digital Industries (DI), the business units Motion Control (MC) and Software (formerly Siemens PLM Software) have teamed up to create a professional AM solution that combines design (NX), simulation (Simcenter), AM factory simulation (Tecnomatix), data and process management (Teamcenter), Manufacturing Operations Management (Opcenter), order management (Additive Manufacturing Network) with machining (Sinumerik 840). Features range from collision avoidance to post-processing data evaluation (MindSphere). The AM business is organized cross-functionally across the business units Motion Control, Factory Automation, Soft-ware, Customer Services and Process Automation. Depending on customer needs, experts from relevant business units are called together in a fast and agile way that is more akin to a start-up business than a multinational company.
Customers Improve AM Productivity with NX Software
Besides state-of-the-art automation hardware, the enabler of a successful AM solution is the software. Siemens NX software, well-known in the market as a high-end CAD/CAM/CAE solution, provides the basis for Siemens’ AM solution. NX supports “design for additive manufacturing” (DFAM), the process that accompanies a part from generative design or scanning in, through simulation, optimization, and validation.
Siemens described several examples of customers successfully using the Siemens AM solutions with NX software:
- Piper Aircraft switched from externally sourced production tools to in-house production using 3D printers. This shortened engineering time and lowered production costs for hundreds of tools per year.
- BMW optimized the production of 100,000 custom parts per year at the company’s own AM campus. The parts are custom printed for personalized cars.
- Toolcraft, a well-known supplier of precision parts, tools and injection molds, used Siemens NX to reduce the weight of mold by 50 percent and production time by 30 percent using conformal cooling.
- A manufacturer of gas turbine burners reduced manufacturing time from 32 weeks to three weeks. The company used Siemens NX software to optimize the design of the burners by eliminating the need for an external pipe through a hollow casting, thus making the 3D printing job much faster.
Partnership with DMG Mori
DMG MORI offers innovative technologies and worldwide service for additive manufacturing. The company’s portfolio includes four complete process chains for additive processes using powder nozzle or powder bed technologies. AM technologies are combined with conventional CNC machines to offer fully integrated process chains.
While the LASERTEC 65 3D is geared solely towards laser deposition welding as a complement to existing machining centers, the LASERTEC SLM series expands the portfolio to include the powder bed method using selective laser melting. Additive manufacturing technologies are also combined with conventional CNC machines to offer fully integrated process chains.
DMG Mori summarized its use of Siemens’ AM solution with these innovative features of the Lasertec 3D process chain:
- Entire components are designed with Siemens NX with CNC code generation and simulation.
- Machining is performed with Sinumerik 840 CNC that uses Siemens NX for collision avoidance.
- The company also uses AM Evaluator, a post-processing tool that visualizes process data as a digital 3D model. This also includes part reports for quality control.
Partnership with The ExOne Company
ExOne is a global supplier of industrial 3D printing systems using sand, metal, ceramics, and composites. The company expects the market for binder jetting technology to grow from 10 percent of the 3D market in 2018 to about 33 percent by 2021. A key aspect is to transform component manufacturing with 3D printing from a time-consuming process for individual repair parts or prototypes to a high-throughput industrial manufacturing process for serial production. Using multiple printing heads is one feature to achieve higher throughput. According to ExOne, key benefits of the partnership with Siemens are:
- Shorter innovation cycles
- Quality and performance improvements
- Minimized downtimes
- Industrial safety and security
- Monitoring and transparency
- Training benefits
- Convenient source of “digital thread” products
- ExOne customers trust Siemens
Given the successful partnership, ExOne introduced a new 3D printer, S-Max Pro, using digital twin technology in the design phase. This helped reduce engineering time by 30 percent. With Siemens edge computing, data from the machines are evaluated using MindSphere, allowing the company to offer cloud-based services with it ExOne Scout App.
Further projects of ExOne with Siemens include a new “X1 160 Pro” AM machine. Others are in the pipeline.
The Value of Using Digital Twins
A key concept in additive manufacturing is the digital twin - a digitalized representation of a product or its manufacturing process. The digital twin allows manufacturers to simulate product design and production processes in software like Siemens NX and Simcenter. Designs can be tested according to defined constraints and then optimized for digital printing without building a single prototype. This process can reduce engineering time dramatically in the transition from the design stage to the production stage by eliminating the “trial and error phase” of prototype building. Siemens NX software provides this functionality in conjunction with the company’s AM solution.
Additive Manufacturing Experience Center Is a Major Contributor to Success of Siemens’ AM Business
For many years, Siemens has equipped manufacturing machinery with modern CNC solutions. The company has a long tradition of working closely with customers and end users to test new CNC algorithms and gain experience and insight into areas where incremental improvement can help push the limits of machine performance and precision. Many customers have visited the headquarters of the MC business unit to learn about new machine control innovations on running machinery.
Siemens has now applied this formula to additive manufacturing. Located in Erlangen, Germany, the company’s Additive Manufacturing Experience Center (AMEC) is a competence center that invites customers to visit and experience the latest developments in AM technology on running machinery. Due to the current pandemic, most of these sessions this year have taken place virtually. According to the company, AMEC welcomed more than 1,500 virtual visitors in May and June alone.
Customers Rely on the “Virtuous” Network for AM Challenges
At the end of the briefing, Siemens summarized the challenges customers face when using AM machinery. These range from “How do we design the ideal functional part?” to “How can we deliver quality of AM parts on time and at scale?” For each challenge, Siemens claims to offer an AM solution. In addition, customers can visit the Additive Manufacturing Experience Center and tap into the “virtuous” network of vendors, machine builders and end users and keep up to date on all aspects of AM technologies.
Additive manufacturing sits at the crossroads of multiple disciplines. A comprehensive AM solution requires automation hardware and software that covers the span of the AM process. Siemens, with its broad portfolio of products and solutions for all these facets, may be unique in the market.
In addition to the solution, AM users can benefit greatly from a network of partners, especially when transitioning from traditional parts manufacturing to AM. With its AM Experience Center, Siemens brings together these partners in a cooperative and mutually beneficial environment.
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Keywords: Additive Manufacturing, AM, Siemens, NX, CAD/CAM/CAE, DMG Mori, ExOne, ARC Advisory Group.