Bavarian state minister of economic affairs visits Application Center VerTec in Fürth
Additive manufacturing is probably the most significant technology for German industry. A key part of this technological revolution is taking place in Fürth: the Application Center VerTec, a joint project by Neue Materialien Fürth GmbH (NMF) and FAU’s Institute of Advanced Materials and Processes (ZMP). At VerTec researchers develop technologies for selective electron beam melting, a type of 3D printing. Their research is funded by the Bavarian State Ministry of Economic Affairs and Media, Energy and Technology. On Monday 22 February, the Bavarian state minister of economic affairs, Ilse Aigner, visited the centre and was informed about a spectacular project: the world’s largest 3D printer is to be set up in the centre this year.
The state minister received a personalised demonstration of what this new manufacturing technology can be used for: Prof. Dr. Robert Singer, Prof. Dr. Carolin Körner and Prof. Dr. Peter Wasserscheid presented Ilse Aigner with a titanium bust in her image which was manufactured using the revolutionary electron beam melting procedure. During Ms Aigner’s 30-minute tour through the centre, there were plenty of opportunities for photographs and film recordings. It was possible to see additive manufacturing machines and prototypes that are to be used in the aerospace and automotive industries.
Implementing a precise blueprint layer by layer
The speciality of the VerTec centre in Fürth is selective electron beam melting in a metal powder bed. This procedure can be used to manufacture precision components using advanced metals. In this procedure, a high-energy electron beam crosses a fine layer of metal powder. The heat from the concentrated beam causes the powder to melt selectively and the metal grains to join together. This procedure is called additive manufacturing, which is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing, where work pieces are milled, turned or cut out of a block of material. Additive manufacturing has one essential advantage: there is less production waste. The amount of raw material needed for a given object can be chosen exactly. Moreover, it is possible to manufacture complex geometric components which could not be manufactured with other processes or without specific forms, such as bionic structures.
World’s largest 3D printer soon to be set up in Fürth
To date, additive manufacturing has predominantly been used to manufacture small parts which are no larger than a hand. However, this technology will be particularly interesting when it is used for large structural components needed in the aerospace and automotive industries. Therefore, the largest laser beam machine in the world will be commissioned at Neue Materialien Fürth GmbH this year. With this furnace, it will be possible to manufacture components of up to one metre in width.
Forerunners of additive manufacturing
Together with the supporting FAU institutions, the Application Center VerTec forms one of the largest research hubs for additive manufacturing in Germany with over 50 researchers and state-of-the-art equipment. The first research projects on additive manufacturing started ten years ago when this new technology was still largely unknown, within FAU’s Cluster of Excellence ‘Engineering of Advanced Materials’, for instance, which was set up in 2007. The breakthrough was achieved with various different European projects and the DFG Collaborative Research Centre ‘Additive manufacturing’ which was established in 2011.
‘The generous, early support from the Bavarian State Ministry of Economic Affairs and Media, Energy and Technology was crucial for the development of the research hub in Fürth,’ says Prof. Dr. Robert Singer, director of VerTec. ‘This applies to the VerTec support programme, as well as to the new electron beam melting furnace or the support for Neue Materialien Fürth GmbH.’
Prof. Dr. Robert Singer
Phone: +49 911 7667210