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German partners found 3D printing cluster

07 May 2014

UnternehmerTUM, Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship and EOS collaborate in Munich.

UnternehmerTUM, the Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship and EOS are taking action to stimulate new business models and innovative start-ups based on the booming industrial 3D printing - also known as laser additive manufacturing - sector.

The two German R&D centers have just founded a 3D Printing Cluster together with EOS, a leading 3D additive manufacturer. Their objective is to create an interdisciplinary network of actors from all over Germany.

Many political leaders, analysts and economists have in recent years said that 3D printing is going to change the world by bringing about a “new industrial revolution”. For example, in his State of the Union address in 2013, Barack Obama stressed the major relevance of 3D printing to society. He said he sees it as a potential means of withdrawing industrial production processes from low-wage countries and relocating them back home (so-called “reshoring”).

In Germany, the importance of 3D printing technologies has also been recognized. The 3D Printing Cluster, which was set up by businesses and start-up centers in Munich, is working to advance applications in this field and intends to build up a strong network of interdisciplinary actors. The Cluster recently commented that it intends to bring together innovation drivers from science, established companies, and start-ups, to enable them to take advantage of the disruptive possibilities of the 3D printing technology for business and society.

Dr. Helmut Schönberger, CEO of UnternehmerTUM said, “Scientists at the Technical University Munich have been researching 3D printing techniques and innovative applications, which have already led to the formation of outstanding company start-ups. UnternehmerTUM hopes that the activities of this Cluster will help to encourage more growth-oriented start-ups in this field.”

Business models

Prof. Dr. Klaus Sailer, CEO of SCE, said “Additive manufacturing gives us a chance to redefine market accessibility and business models. Solutions will be made available more quickly and cheaply, allowing us to alleviate such urgent social problems as those encountered in public health and disaster management. The value of team work, which our innovative research already emphasizes, will only increase with this technology.”

Nikolai Zaepernick, Head of Strategy and Business Development at EOS added, "Start-ups that focus their attention on applications based on the industrial 3D printing production technology from EOS are important partners for us when it comes to subsequent market development activities.

”EOS has been supporting start-up business for several years already. These include companies such as Shapeways, who have developed into a successful player in the field of additive production in only a few years. These companies are quick to learn and employ our innovative technology in creating sustainable products with a high degree of customer benefit.

”They are continually redefining limits and repeatedly push us to new peaks of performance. Within the 3D Printing Cluster, we are able to identify the most promising start-ups very quickly. At the same time, we can support them in the most suitable way with what they need very urgently for their continued development while taking their first tentative steps on the market."

Development areas

The future-oriented Cluster is dedicated to the field of additive production at several levels. Their main areas of activity are as follows:

(1) Start-up support The idea here is that the network will support the initiation of new entrepreneurial projects and develop them into eventual business start-ups. The Entrepreneurship Centres and EOS along with other members of the network will support these teams as they grow into what will hopefully be promising activities.

(2) Training and continuing education A focal point of cluster activities will be the growth of training opportunities. In a variety of training courses and seminars, trainees, students and skilled workers will learn how to operate the new tools and gradually familiarize themselves with the possibilities of this versatile technology.

TechShop, the new prototype workshop, will also be giving its own courses, beginning in 2015. In addition, the new infrastructure will allow course participants to realize their own projects, thus giving them a chance to learn from each other's experiences.

(3) Communication and networking Events such as the annual Cluster meetings and regular pitch sessions, in which innovators and start-ups present their projects, will serve to strengthen the network. It is planned to open marketplaces too in which know-how such as material databases can be exchanged, resources and production capacities shared and new standards discussed and defined.

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.

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