The US aerospace giant Boeing, German industrial group Evonik Industries, German aircraft and automotive supplier MCP HEK Tooling, and German laser-sintering system manufacturer EOS GmbH have joined with the University of Paderborn to form the Direct Manufacturing Research Center (DMRC). The partners have signed an agreement to further the development of direct manufacturing processes and systems—that is, the automatic additive-layer fabrication of component parts straight from a computer model.
This cooperation builds on the varied expertise of the industrial partners and the research capabilities of the university in mechanical engineering, chemistry, and computer sciences. The DMRC is scheduled to open this autumn at the University of Paderborn.
“Direct manufacturing offers the potential of significantly reducing parts production costs, as well as enhancing the ability to fabricate more-complex and more-functional component parts,” says Jeff DeGrange, chairman of the board of the DMRC consortium and senior manager of direct digital manufacturing at Boeing’s advanced R&D organization Phantom Works.
Unlike common milling technologies, direct manufacturing technology automatically builds up parts in layers, for example with a laser, based on a computer-aided design (CAD) data set. While direct manufacturing technologies are already used to develop prototypes, its employment for the production of small series of complex parts is rare. Preconditions for more-widespread use are technical improvements in the quality and consistency of the production process, the development of industrial standards, automation, and greater production speed.
The industrial partners in the DMRC will contribute to the research cooperation according to their core competencies: Boeing defines production process and system requirements from an aerospace standpoint. Evonik Industries produces polymer-based standard materials and material solutions tailored for direct manufacturing. EOS and MCP HEK Tooling provide expertise in the development of laser-sintering and laser-melting systems for metals and polyamides.
The four founding companies will invest a total of €2 million in the centre over the contract period of five years (equivalent to an annual contribution of €100,000 per company). Additionally, the University of Paderborn will contribute €600,000. The DMRC invites new industry partners to join it in order to allow continual expansion of its research portfolio.
The German state of North Rhine–Westphalia has announced that it will invest a €1.4 million to improve the University of Paderborn’s research infrastructure for direct manufacturing. The funds will be used for the acquisition of equipment for the DMRC, thus establishing the basis for projects in this research area. The state will also co-invest up to €3.4 million for DMRC research projects over the next five years should the industrial partners additionally contribute the same amount.
The partners expect total funding of the DMRC to reach approximately €11 million over the next five years.