Hamburger Nachrichten: What does this superiority consist of and what are the advantages of 3D printing?
Frank Beckmann: The first big advantage is the enormous geometric design freedom that can be achieved through additive manufacturing. The layered structure of components facilitates the production of complex geometries such as lattice structures or bionic structures that cannot be produced with conventional production or can only be produced with great effort. IAPT uses this advantage, for example, to redesign and print connection structures for aviation, so-called brackets or a wheel suspension with integrated brake caliper for Fiat Chrysler Automotive. In any case, around 40 percent of the weight could be saved through the use of 3D printing, since with such highly efficient constructions the components only have to have material for load transfer when required.
Hamburger Nachrichten: The technology is also flexible and suitable for small-scale production. What role is 3D printing playing in the pandemic?
Frank Beckmann: A second important advantage is that the design can be printed directly from the CAD data set without the casting and forging tools or the CNC programming for milling. This means that components can be manufactured very flexibly and economically and even in small quantities, which enormously shortens the supply chain. This benefit has become noticeable during the pandemic. We printed Adapters for respiratory masks and holder for face protection at Fraunhofer IAPT very quickly and were able to provide quick, unbureaucratic help in Germany and Italy, which were severely affected by the lack of such equipment.
We have also developed two mobile container-based manufacturing units that can additively process both plastic and metal. You can also print medical devices in crisis areas or missing components for companies with disrupted supply chains. 3D printing helps with crisis management and increases the resilience of supply chains thanks to flexible component production.