Question: Cooperations seem to be an important part of your work.
Answer: Definitely. We believe that this technology can only become mature in the next five to 10 years if the industry, academics and politics team up through partnerships. We share a lot of our know-how and sometimes even technology secrets in scientific journals and conference papers so that the community can build up on our specific expertise. We have put in place an eco-system with customers and partners along the complete value chain. We work together with powder producers, OEMs, end users and leading academics.
Question: How will your work affect Linde’s ability to innovate?
Answer: A positive development over the last months has been the enthusiasm from colleagues of different market segments to re-design their products by using the possibilities of Additive Manufacturing. We support them with design guidance and part production. An interesting example comes from our colleagues of the Lindoflamm product line. Those burners use acetylene to create a flame that is then used to pre-heat a metallic object. They are highly customized and complex to manufacture with many single parts that need to be assembled manually. The new burner currently in development is printed in one piece and has integrated cooling channels.
Question: What’s next for you?
Answer: The year 2019 will be exciting with the launch of new products and the start of new cooperations. We plan, for example, to kick-off a groundbreaking project where, together with partners, we will develop a new alloy, light and strong, that will be printable only with a specific gas mixture. There are today only 20+ materials available in AM against more than 500 in the powder metallurgy. We will help to change this with customized gas technologies.
Question: What is the biggest hurdle that Additive Manufacturing still faces?
Answer: Education. If people know when and how to use this technology, it will spread much faster. It’s very important that we spread the know-how in companies, in universities, schools, even kindergartens. People need to learn that there is this new way to design and manufacture parts. Why shouldn’t there be a small 3D printer in every school in Germany? For engineers, it’s still often not part of their university curriculum. I hope that will change.