Apr 29, 2016 | By Kira

We all know that Paris is the city of Lights and Amsterdam is the city of Bikes… but when it comes to 3D printing, where would one go? According to entrepreneurs, researchers and technologists at the Hanover Trade Fair 2016, the answer is Dresden, which is now positioning itself as Europe’s 3D print capital and a leader in additive manufacturing materials, processes and industrial production.

While there’s no real ‘title’ to be assigned here, the East German city’s self-designated role as 3D printing capital of Europe certainly deserves a closer look.

According to a recent study by consulting firm Roland Berger, the market for additive manufacturing has grown on average 20 percent per year since 2004, and experts are predicting ongoing annual growth of more than 30 percent. From an economic perspective, then, it makes perfect sense that Dresden would want to position itself as a leader in the field.

But what evidence does Dresden have to back up such a bold claim?

Considering technology more generally, Dresden certainly is a European—if not world—leader. One out of every two chips manufactured in Europe originates in Dresden, and in addition to microelectronics, the region is heavily invested in nanotechnology, life sciences, and biotechnology research.

In terms of 3D printing more specifically, it gets even more interesting. Dresden is home to several leading research institutes in the areas of materials science and additive manufacturing, including several branches of the prestigious Fraunhofer Society. These include: The Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS; the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS; and the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Materials Research IFAM.

On top of all that, AGENT-3D, Europe’s largest consortium for additive-generative manufacturing, is coordinated in—you guessed it—Dresden.

In collaboration with more than 100 partners in industry and science, including Siemens, Rolls Royce and Airbus, the “Additive Generative Manufacturing – the 3D Revolution for the Production in Digital Age” (AGENT-3D) is a joint project that hopes to fund and develop large-scale applications of 3D printing in industrial production. Its budget is 90 million Euro.

“3D printing makes complex and individualized production possible, and creates components with completely new shapes and functionalities,” said Christoph Leyens, Professor of Material Technology at TU Dresden. “For instance, in the future we will be able to manufacture engines and cylinder heads for vehicles or gas turbines and energy-efficient burner systems from one single piece.”

To give a brief overview of what these Dresden-based researchers have been developing, Fraunhofer IKTS, Europe’s largest ceramic research institute, has reportedly created a flexible 3D printing process for calcium-composite bone implants, dental prosthetics, and surgical tools. These custom 3D printed implants can actually re-absorb into the body, reducing the risk of rejection and improving recovery time and patient outcome.

“Due to their high tolerance – and different from classic titanium implants – the new implants made from biomaterial rarely lead to graft rejection, thus sparing patients uncomfortable complications,” explained Leyens. “We expect the biomaterial to be available for application in practice in the near future, once all ongoing clinical tests have been concluded.”

Another important 3D printing innovation with roots in Dresden is that of carbon-fibre reinforced materials, which are significantly stronger and lightweight that traditionally manufactured materials, and thus ideal for high-demand industrial applications.

“Additive-generative manufacturing that, for the first time, features fiber reinforcement according to load direction, opens up new fields of application for custom-tailored lightweight construction solutions in multilateral designs,” said Hubert Jäger, Professor and Spokesman at the Institute for Lightweight Engineering and Polymer Technology (ILK) at TU Dresden. “The engineers at the ILK are developing procedures to make the presently used layered 3D printing more stable by inserting carbon fiber and producing three-dimensional objects of high rigidity.”

Recently, we also wrote about CONPrint3D, a system for 3D printing concrete structures, devised at the TU Dresden. Clearly, this city is recognized as an industrial additive manufacturing hub, even if doesn’t have the same glamorous appeal as say, London, Paris, or Milan.

At the end of the day, whether Dresden truly does come to be known as “Europe’s 3D printing capital” or not, a name is just a name. What really matters is the quality of the technology and innovation, whether it’s coming from Brussels, New York, Bangkok, or any other city in the world.

Dresden and its many additive manufacturing research partners, are being represented at Hannover Messe Industrial Technology Exhibition, taking place from April 25-29 in Germany.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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