Additive Manufacturing

AUG 2017

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING is the magazine devoted to industrial applications of 3D printing and digital layering technology. We cover the promise and the challenges of this technology for making functional tooling and end-use production parts.

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AUGUST 2017 Additive Manufacturing FEATURE / Production 36 By Barbara Schulz Designed to Go Global What do McDonald's and additive manufacturing specialist FIT Group, based in Lupburg, Germany, have in common? Company founder Carl Fruth, who invested 20 million euros in a new purpose-built facility for high-volume AM, says the success of the burger behemoth is in the business model. "McDonald's has succeeded in reproducing their model all around the world through consistent restaurant oper- ations procedures, service, quality and cleanliness," Fruth said during an event earlier this year at which the company opened the doors to what it believes is the world's first facility entirely designed for high-volume AM. "McDonald's managed to adjust their production tech- nology and processes to customer demands as well as to the average employee's skills and abilities," he says. For example, each restaurant makes burgers in six packs, not in a batch of eight, three or eleven, because six was found to be the right amount for an employee to handle. "It is not about what an individual is good at, but what can be optimally reproduced and rolled out all around the world. That's the key to industrialization." Germany-based FIT AG aims to roll out its AM factory template at other sites around the world by building a global, scalable production concept. Transferring this concept to FIT, Fruth says his vision is to find the optimum concept for an AM factory, the one that works as near to perfectly as possible for the company, the customer and the employees, and then replicate this one-to-one all over the planet. He has been working on his AM factory since 2004, and now it has become a reality. The purpose-built facility now opened hosts metal and plastics AM on two stories. The metal area boasts three manufacturing lines with five SLM 500 HL selective laser melting machines each. Up to seven differ- ent material feeding systems are available for stainless, tool steel, titanium, aluminum and Inconel. Four separate SLM systems run outside the line for one-off orders. There are also two Arcam EBM Q20 systems. The factory is currently producing 25 kg of metal parts every day, and capacity utilization in this area is currently about 45 percent, Fruth says. "We can reach 90 percent utilization, but only through series production. We are still making more prototypes than end-use parts [in metal], so the utilization rate is quite good considering it was at about 38 percent with only seven ma- chines in 2014."

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