Acquisitions & PartnershipsJobsMetal Additive Manufacturing

Aconity3D expands metal AM operations at UTEP

The University of Texas at El Paso and its Keck Center welcome German 3D printing company Aconity3D

Aconity3D, a German developer of metal 3D printing systems, has announced it will be expanding its global reach with the establishment of a North American base of operations. The new base will be located at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). There, Aconity3D will further develop its metal AM business for the production of complex metal parts for the aerospace, automotive and medical industries, to name just a few.

Known for its modular powder bed laser melting machines, Aconity3D is originally based in Aachen, in close proximity to the RWTH University and Fraunhofer research institutes. The cutting edge AM company says it was interested in partnering with UTEP for its North American expansion because of the university’s state of the art W.M Keck Center for 3D Innovation.

UTEP Keck Center

Since 2000, when the Keck Center and UTEP’s College of Engineering decided to invest in additive manufacturing technologies, the Texan university has been something of a hub for AM innovation. The primary role of the Keck Center over the years has been to work with manufacturers to produce prototypes using AM, to enable them to test the technology before investing in expensive manufacturing tools.

Aconity3D
Bottom row from left: UTEP President Diana Natalicio; Yves Hagedorn, Aconity3D, managing director; Florian Sondermann, AconityUS, managing director. Top row, from left, Ryan Wicker, Ph.D., Keck Center director; Zia Uddin, student researcher; Alfonso Fernandez, powder bed manager; Francisco Medina, director of technology and engagement; Mireya Flores, Keck Center manager; Philip Morton, applications manager

“We have long worked on leveraging our expertise in 3D printing to build a new economy in El Paso around additive manufacturing,” commented Ryan Wicker, PhD, the founder of the Keck Center. “Our partnership with Aconity3D is a major milestone in that direction and is validation of all of our combined efforts.

“The only way a company like Aconity3D would decide to come here is because of our technical strength in additive manufacturing, access to our graduating talent to meet their workforce needs, and the tremendous opportunities available for commercial success through collaborations with UTEP. We can apply this economic development model to build other businesses around their technologies, recruit other 3D printing businesses to our region and create new businesses from our own 3D printing technologies coming out of UTEP. As a research university, UTEP must be—and is excited to be—fully engaged in stimulating economic development for the benefit of our region.”

Recruitment

In line with Wicker’s comments, by establishing its business in the region, Aconity3D will inevitably create high-end jobs for engineering graduates and students in the community. Simultaneously, they seek to benefit from the expertise from UTEP to enhance their own production and services. Together with other government agencies and industry players, UTEP and Aconity3D say they will also work to advance metal AM on the whole.

The new location for Aconity3D—aptly named AconityUS—is located at the University Towers Building in El Paso. The new business in Texas will begin with a CEO who will hire up to three employees within the first year of operations. Eventually, Aconity3D and UTEP plan to establish a technical center and research space for the metal AM company within the Keck Center, which will work alongside Aconity3D’s German HQ to sell and deploy its 3D printers in the U.S. and North America. Within Germany, Aconity3D boasts over 50 employees and continual growth.

“UTEP is committed to providing our students with exceptional educational opportunities, many of which are advanced through the ground-breaking research underway on our campus,” said UTEP President Diana Natalicio. “This agreement with Aconity3D will enhance UTEP’s research environment, broaden the range of experiences available to our students in the Keck Center for 3D Innovation, and attract new business development that will enable UTEP graduates to remain in this region to pursue their career goals.”

Fuelling innovation

In 2015, UTEP’s Keck Center was named America Makes’ first satellite center, further establishing itself as a force within AM innovation in the United States. Presently, the AM facility already houses an Aconity3D printer. The machine in question, is based on Aconity3D’s laser powder bed fusion technology.

Notably, the company’s AM technology is built with an open architecture system that allows for more modular control of the printers. That is, unlike many other metal AM systems which integrate set build parameters, Aconity3D’s platform enables users to modify parameters depending on the material used. Because of this, Aconity3D’s printers do require a high level of expertise to use, making them suitable for innovation research.

“The Keck Center is a natural fit for Aconity3D as it is a recognized leader in additive manufacturing,” commented Theresa A. Maldonado, Ph.D., dean of UTEP’s College of Engineering. “This collaboration will enhance our technical knowledge base and expand our expertise. We can also work collaboratively toward our model to incubate startups and provide them a pool of highly qualified graduates.”

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault moved from her home of Montreal, Canada to the Netherlands in 2014 to pursue a master’s degree in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. It was during her time in Amsterdam that she became acquainted with 3D printing technology and began writing for a local additive manufacturing news platform. Now based in France, Tess has over two and a half years experience writing, editing and publishing additive manufacturing content with a particular interest in women working within the industry. She is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM industry.

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