Additive Manufacturing the Norm in 10 Years? Siemens Thinks So

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Siemens and Local Motors announced a new partnership at the recent International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago, which is intended to help advance the future of manufacturing by optimizing the development and large-scale 3D printing of automobiles.

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The partnership combines the power of Siemens’ product lifecycle management (PLM) software technology with Local Motors’ leadership in co-created and 3D-printed vehicles — a process called direct digital manufacturing (DDM), wherein parts are produced directly from CAD files.

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All 115,612 International Manufacturing Technology Show attendees could ride Olli, Local Motors’ first 3D-printed, autonomous vehicle to get around the massive show floor. Source: IMTS.

Local Motors plans to enhance productivity in its LM Labs program by leveraging Siemens’ expertise in creating “digital twins,” while Siemens expects to further enhance its digital enterprise software suite to support the latest advances in additive manufacturing/3D printing.

For the first time, Local Motors provided an autonomous vehicle, “Olli” that ferried IMTS goers throughout the halls of McCormick Place. The vehicle used Watson’s capabilities to enable riders to ask complex questions in “natural language” voice such as where to visit in Chicago while in town. Olli can be hailed by an app and is in real-life testing Local Motors testing locations right now including National Harbor, Md., Las Vegas and, later this year, Miami. The autonomous vehicle can take route instructions and explain what’s happening during the trip.

Local Motors brought other 3D-printed vehicles — including Strati, the first 3D-printed show car created at IMTS 2014 — tot the show, too.

On the Siemens side of the partnership, the PLM software provider insists that additive manufacturing is not in direct competition with existing manufacturing processes and will not completely replace them.

“Instead, 3D printing will provide an ideal complement to traditional procedures like injection molding and milling,” said Ulli Klenk, chairman of the board of the Additive Manufacturing Association within VDMA — a German manufacturing association trade and certification association — and also manager of Siemens’ digital factory division.

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Klenk said the certifications and standards VDMA is working on will bring legitimacy to the technology and, within 10 years, additive manufacturing could effectively be commoditized with 3D printing powders and their prices treated as any other raw materials.

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