Under the brand AM Solutions, there are two units: “AM Solutions – 3D post-processing technology”, which offers equipment, process technologies and consumables tailored for the automated 3D post-processing; and “AM Solutions – Manufacturing service partner,” a service company that offers additive manufacturing services integrated with a broader portfolio of production technologies and professional services in R&D, parts design, reverse engineering, quality assurance and metrology in order to support customers’ industrial application development lifecycle.
More so than in any other industrial segment, the largest firms involved in additive manufacturing have come to the realization that achieving full industrialization of these technologies—and reaping their benefits—requires close collaboration among several entities. As a result, the first AM networks were created, driven by firms specializing in a specific aspect of the AM workflow, supported by partners to address other areas. However, no production network has yet been established that can parallel the unique finishing and post processing capabilities that Rösler Group can offer today. That network is now being established under the AM Solutions srl company, also named “AM Solutions – Manufacturing service partner,” part of the Rösler Group, starting from the Italian market and led by its General Manager Mr. Ubaldo Concilio.
Mr. Concilio has long been a believer in establishing “platforms” enabled by partner networks across additive manufacturing in order to offer powerful and efficient manufacturing service solutions to address the challenges of AM and the requirements of new-age manufacturing. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted this need and many companies find themselves wanting to embrace AM but unable or unwilling to make the initial—and significant—investments on their own. This is a typical situation where “AM Solutions – Manufacturing service partner” can come in and provide business value.
“We are able to offer services starting from R&D support to post-processing and surface treatments, along with fully tailored and on-demand manufacturing processes,” Mr. Concilio explains. “Clients that are embracing additive manufacturing find a reliable company here with us, willing to focus on their requirements. If they also have very specific and challenging post-processing and finishing requirements, here at ‘AM Solutions – Manufacturing service partner’ they can have the best of both. This is something you are not likely to find anywhere else.”
For “AM Solutions – Manufacturing service partner,” the ability to offer R&D support, a portfolio of fully operative production solutions and post-processing capabilities for printed parts, is one of the key things that differentiates its portfolio of services. However, another key element that Mr. Concilio stresses is the company’s culture: the way it conducts business based on a long-term relationship that can start from part design and moves through production, under a service-based approach. This particularly applies to multi-step productions that involve multiple suppliers. Here, “AM Solutions – Manufacturing service partner” can act as a single reference for the customer (i.e. main contractor). “If we are producing titanium components and we need to have the parts undergo specific thermal treatments or particular additional treatments,” Mr. Concilio explains, “we can mediate between different specialized service providers so that everything is combined into a single operation or service.”
Pillars of value
“Among many, there are two key valuable advantages that AM Solutions can bring to its customers: one is the strength of the Rösler Group in terms of post-processing and surface treatments capabilities—so advanced that most companies turn to us to solve the most challenging post-processing and finishing cases. The second one is our focus on delivering technical results that are valuable to our customers, approaching them on a trusted and long-term business relationship,” Mr. Concilio explains. “The company’s goal is to become an industrial partner to clients, not solely to print parts, but to bring tangible benefit to the table, engaging with clients to create value in their business processes.”
The basic idea is that “AM Solutions – Manufacturing service partner” does not simply offer additive manufacturing services. The team is looking to offer a broader and more advanced platform for AM adoption and integration, which even includes some traditional manufacturing technologies. This offer is particularly—though not exclusively—valuable for firms that are now starting to enter the market. Instead of jumping directly into insourcing AM production—with the significant CapEx investment that this entails—AM Solutions offers an alternative approach that lets customers familiarize themselves with technologies and identify their exact requirements by leveraging the extensive capabilities of its portfolio. “We walk with them, we become partners with them and we share some business risks with them,” Mr. Concilio says. “One of our first clients perfectly embodies this approach. It had already acquired systems and warehouses and then began working with us on gradually implementing an additive manufacturing production workflow.”
Customers can then rely on “AM Solutions – Manufacturing service partner” for batches of a few tens or hundreds/thousands of parts until they are ready to start with larger productions of several thousand to hundreds of thousands of parts per year. As production gets underway, the partner/customer can continue to rely on “AM Solutions – Manufacturing service partner” to work on established as well as new solutions.
Vertical go-to-market partners
“AM Solutions – Manufacturing service partner” approaches the market by vertical industries. Mr. Concilio elaborates: “The knowledge of and the experience in each specific industrial supply chain and of industry peculiarities are a relevant part of our proposition and help us to better identify the value we can create for our customers.”
We are open towards collaborations and partnerships in order to build more knowledge and expertise around vertical sectors.”
While AM technology can theoretically address demands in any segment, it’s difficult to apply identical solutions to different industries. “Applications must follow different rules and regulatory requirements depending on the sector they have to be applied to. We have strong expertise in some of those industries and we are rapidly developing our skills and knowledge in some others,” he adds. “We are an open company. We are open to collaborations and partnerships in order to build more knowledge and expertise around vertical sectors or for a single client opportunity. What is important to us is to find and apply the right solution that matches our customer requirements and generates value. And very often, the solution is not just a technical matter.”
A taste of everything, to the finish
The “AM Solutions – Manufacturing service partner” facility is structured to provide basic services in a number of key areas. The facility is organized by process activity. The AM production area is the first, immediately next to the powder warehouse (ATEX compliant).
The succeeding area is for post-processing, with thermal treatment technology and a 5-axis CNC system that can be used both for subtractive manufacturing and post-processing purposes. A dedicated finishing area follows, which runs “AM Solutions – 3D post-processing technology” technologies and other solutions from business partners. Additional stations include advanced 3D scanning and metrology capabilities for quality control processes. And some of the most powerful tools for surface treatments are just next door in the large Rösler Italiana facility, where just about any type of post-processing system and material is housed.
Multi-partner and multi-platform
Another important point is the development of relationships with AM technology vendors. “AM Solutions – Manufacturing service partner” intends to be platform-agnostic, embracing its partners’ technologies. “This means we must have a close relationship with all vendors in order to develop a profound knowledge of all platforms and technologies. As ‘consultants,’ we need to understand the development pipelines, upcoming products and the technical specifications of each technology; and we need to know how those technologies best match the single part requirements or the requirements of an industrial sector.” Not only focused on well-established and more mature technologies like PBF, EBM or FDM, “AM Solutions – Manufacturing service partner” is also eyeing other incoming and younger technologies. “Each industry has different needs. Automotive or Medical, for example, require metal parts as well as other advanced polymer solutions. If we want to serve a vertical industry we are required to look at those materials and technologies,” Mr. Concilio reveals. “We look with interest at new technologies, especially those that represent a great hope to increase AM throughput on certain types of parts. But we always consider that parts must match technical specifications in markets that have binding technical requirements for density or mechanical strengths of their parts.”
These part quality concerns, incidentally, are why Mr. Concilio thinks that some sectors still have not yet embraced AM aggressively. A turbine on an oil field just cannot break. Qualifying such parts is an expensive and lengthy process that needs to rely on solid suppliers and supply chains. “In some sectors, we can carry our part qualification processes within the context of an ongoing project or directly within production. Our open policy extends our already existing internal capabilities beyond our industrial partners, to embrace metallurgy laboratories and even single professionals.”
Business flexibility: big deal
An additional key aspect to consider is that companies are now finally starting to become more aware of what it means to have business flexibility. Some came to this realization the hard way, when they had to come to terms with the fact that without productive flexibility, they would be lost in challenging times such as the ones we are living through now. “This means that those who had announced or undertaken a path towards full insourcing of technological platforms will, in some cases, have to pause and probably fine-tune or balance their approach,” Concilio notes. “Heavy insourcing means large investments and increasing debt levels. In some cases, this is not easily sustainable. Especially in this historical moment, and particularly in the AM field, I think that externalization could significantly help companies to balance the desire to have complete internal control of the process, with the need to implement more flexible processes and to increase their adaptability level to meet market conditions. ‘AM Solutions – Manufacturing service partner’ aims to generate this kind of value for its customers.”
This article first appeared on 3dpbm’s AM Focus 2020 Metal eBook