Some time ago, we had the opportunity to see a preview of Siemens’ new facility dedicated to additive manufacturing—an impressive complex of over 4,500 square meters (created through an investment of €30 million) that aims to revolutionize the use of 3D printing technologies for production. Last week, Siemens officially opened the 3D printing facility and we went to see it.
Based in Worcester at Materials Solutions, a company acquired by Siemens in 2016, the new additive factory is a true jewel of automation. Within the facility, you can find some of the most cutting-edge manufacturing technologies, like metal 3D printing systems, post-production machines, state-of-the-art 3D scanners and fully automated robots.
The main highlight of the facility is a machine park consisting of about 50 EOS 3D printers capable of processing various types of metal, from aluminum to titanium. This huge 3D printing-oriented production line is the result of a long-standing partnership between Siemens and EOS, a collaboration that has now reached new levels thanks to the launch of a pilot project based on to the new EOS M 300-4. With a printing area of 300 x 300 x 400 mm, four 400-watt lasers and scanners, EOS M 300-4 is able to strongly increase productivity.
The new M 300-4 can be considered at the forefront of a 3D printing supply chain composed of others EOS machines, such as the M 270, the M 280, the M 290 and a Renishaw system, perfect for the aerospace sector. Aerospace is one of the three target markets for Siemens’ new digital facility, which will place a focus on the creation of turbine components.
To demonstrate the efficiency of the Worcester-based center, Siemens and Materials Solutions successfully 3D printed a new functional component for the SGT5-9000HL turbine, powered by a design achievable only through the use of 3D printing technologies. This project proves how 3D printing is essential to decrease production times (in this case it has gone from 12-18 months to 3-6 months), reduce costs, improve performance and overcome current design constraints, while maintaining the same resistance as the existing part.
Another sector of strategic interest for Siemens is automotive, particularly for tooling—a field with great unexpressed potential. In this area, the company decided to try a new experiment: restore, with the use of its additive solutions, a 100-year-old Ruston Hornsby. The result was surprising: thanks to a perfect work of reverse engineering, it was possible to digitally recreate the missing parts, print and install them on the car to make it work again.
“Whether it’s materials, machines, processes, or the digital value chain, we’re always pushing the boundaries of technology,” said Markus Seibold, Vice President AM at Siemens Power & Gas. “Printing components for gas turbines means the highest material and technology requirements. If you can print a gas turbine blade, you can print pretty much anything.
“The end-to-end software and automation solutions, combined with our comprehensive expertise and our large printer fleet, makes Siemens a world leader in industrializing additive manufacturing, driving productivity, and getting complex 3D printed parts right the first time. We’re in the unique position of being able to leverage our advanced user expertise to bring these solutions to external customers via Materials Solutions.”
Siemens’ additive factory is the perfect example of how 3D printing and additive manufacturing technologies are now able to provide concrete solutions for production with outstanding results.
The factory is not yet “fully operational”, but the goal is to ensure the production of up to 200,000 pieces per year. This could mark a real and significant turning point for the whole AM sector.