Anand Prakasam, Country Manager, EOS India

Tell us something about EOS…
EOS is the global technology leader for industrial 3D printing of metals and polymers. Founded in 1989 in Munich, the independent company is a pioneer and innovator for holistic solutions in Additive Manufacturing.

EOS is mastering the interaction of laser and powder material. Additionally, our company provides all essential elements for Industrial 3D printing. System, material and process parameters are intelligently harmonized to ensure a reliable high quality of parts, thus facilitating a decisive competitive edge. Furthermore, customers benefit from deep technical expertise in global service, applications engineering and consultancy.

EOS nurtures a vibrant ecosystem of partners and, by means of venture investments, helps incubate promising start-ups. It’s this interaction along the whole industrial value-chain that enables the development of extensive solutions for 3D printing. Hence contributing to the further digitization and automation of manufacturing. We work closely with leading brands across sectors such as aerospace, automotive, medical, dental and oil & gas, among others. Currently, we have about 1000 employees worldwide. Our annual turnover in 2016 was about Euro 315 Million.

What’s your take on 3D printing technology?
Industrial 3D printing or Additive Manufacturing is a manufacturing technology which enables our customers to produce innovative and high quality products using layer technology. Depending on application and the goal a customer wants to achieve, this process enables, among others, industry players to cut down lead time, cost, enable the manufacturing of complex or lightweight products and increase the compatibility for batch production. It provides the manufacturer the freedom and flexibility to design according to the product. It works around the limitations of conventional production processes and supports design-driven processes. It permits customised, batch-size-appropriate serial production. People want to take Industrial 3D printing into main scale manufacturing as currently, it’s mostly used for manufacturing prototypes. We are noticing that, industries are warming up to Industrial 3D printing for mass manufacturing.

We must understand that Additive Manufacturing can be viewed as any other manufacturing technology such as casting, forging and machining. The key to success for any industry would be to acquire knowledge to use this technology in production facilities.

Aerospace and dental industry have been successfully using industrial 3D printing extensively for production. There are several industries like the automotive industry that are yet to implement Additive Manufacturing into their shop floor processes since the technology at present is capable of small batch production only.

The trends and demands you see in Indian industrial 3D printing market…
I have observed two trends:

  • Customers are now looking for faster machines
  • Increasing demand for more and more material variants.

As we know Industrial 3D Printers can be used for batch production. However, companies are keen to take this into production areas. Apart from this, as new metal material get configured, companies can look for more application and usage areas for this technology.

There are few restrictions like materials and it’s not used for mass manufacturing. So how is it going to be in the near future?
Companies have not fully utilized the potential of Industrial 3D printing technology. It can be used in many more industries, which is yet to happen. For example Oil & Gas is now beginning to adopt it. Therefore, if you look at the current scenario, I think, the adoption rate is just about 25-30% and we still have a long way to go. The way forward is to enable better implementation and educate customers across industries on the possibilities Additive Manufacturing can offer for specific industries and applications. The quicker the customer will go through an AM learning curve, the more beneficial this will be for a customer’s  business success. EOS offers a consulting and knowledge transfer portfolio of services under the name “Additive Minds”. Where needed, this team of experts from EOS supports customers through the entire education and transformation phase .

We strongly believe and see from existing examples that AM is entering production applications. When it goes into production, they key concern is quality and EOS invests a huge chunk of its revenue to make sure we provide the best quality. EOS spends about a million Euro every week in R&D to make quality products.

For prototyping, 99% quality is acceptable however, for production you need 100% quality.

We would also like to encourage integration of these machines with main stream production machines. If you visit any production plant they will show you the facility saying this is my machine shop and that’s our 3D printing room! This has to change; Industrial 3D printers have to come into the machine shop and not kept in a separate room just to manufacture certain parts for a complete product. The future will see integrated manufacturing environments featuring both conventional and additive technologies. The goal is to get the best out of both worlds for the better of the product.

Is it a threat or complement for machining companies?
Any production technology that enters the market is majorly introduced to supplement and also overlap with conventional/existing methods. It will certainly take some business away from other manufacturing processes, but this new production method will provide value to the companies on the overall product development. I feel a combination of both, the existing manufacturing technologies and Additive Manufacturing, would be the future of manufacturing.

Talking about the Indian 3D printing industry, do you think there is enough awareness?
Even though Industrial 3D Printing is accepted and endorsed globally, it is still at a nascent stage in India, in the wake of lack of awareness. People are aware of plastic 3D printers, however, industrial 3D printers and even the metal AM technology is not known well yet.

What are the steps taken by EOS to spread awareness in India?
As mentioned above, we have our consulting program called Additive Minds which is a new vertical inside EOS where we provide consulting to companies.

Let me elaborate this with an example. Recently a company approached us for production of 800 machine parts but didn’t know how to identify the ones suitable for metal 3D printing. We did a Part Screening Program that helped them to choose right parts for Additive Manufacturing. It’s not mass awareness, but targeted awareness creation and we can do this for every industry. Apart from this, we organize seminars and other events to familiarize companies about our consulting services.

Is there any support from government to spread awareness about 3D printing?
Government has a big role to play. If you look across the world, in countries like China, Singapore, Germany, USA and many others, everyone is pledging huge amount of money in this technology. However, in India the awareness for 3D printing is still negligible. I feel our government can promote the adoption of this technology through newly planned initiatives such as ‘Design in India’ which will then give us an opportunity to create an optimized product from scratch and reduce the costing as such.

Given the current industry scenario, we should focus on manufacturing products which are of higher value to the customers and this can only be achieved once we design products our self.

How you see the future of Indian 3D printing? How is EOS catching up with the trend?
Indian 3D printing is expected to grow predominately in tooling, automotive, medical and dental. The three biggest markets for us are automotive, aerospace and dental and we are very much in the growth trajectory of the Indian 3D printing market. We have the technology, offer the skills and infrastructure to support Indian companies while they upgrade.

By Nishant Kashyap

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