Materialise consolidated its metal 3D printing operations in Germany.
The Belgian company actually has quite a number of offices located around the world, including:
- United States
- United Kingdom
However, their metal operations in Germany were sprayed across a couple of locations in Bremen. Now the company has opened a massive 3,500sm (38,000sf) operation to consolidate their metal 3D printing activities.
Up to now Materialise had a software development / distribution center, and a separate industrial manufacturing center. The two activities will now enjoy working in the massive new plant.
Materialise explained the capacity of the new site:
“The company invested approximately €7.5 million to construct the new facility, which has the capacity for over 120 employees and more than 30 industrial metal 3D printers.”
That’s a very significant capacity: 30 metal 3D printers is a very big deal, and represents several tens of millions of investment for the 3D printers alone, should Materialise decide to fully utilize the facility. Metal 3D printers also require sophisticated HVAC setup as well as a complement of finishing equipment.
Why do this consolidation? It seems that Materialise, like other 3D printing companies, is experiencing dramatically increased interest from manufacturers looking to diversify their supply chains.
Last year’s supply chains irrevocably broke under the strain of COVID-19, as they were optimized for low cost, not for flexibility. Manufacturers worldwide have recognized that flexible supply chains, particularly those with immediately re-purposable additive equipment, are valuable.
However, many of these manufacturers are new to 3D printing, or at least within a new scope of new materials and products, and don’t yet have the skills or equipment to proceed. It’s in their best interests to find a partner who does know the ropes of AM that can provide services, at least until manufacturers come up to speed.
Materialise wants to be that partner, hence the new metal center. They explain:
”The Metal Competence Center will enable increased collaboration between software development and manufacturing teams to better serve industrial customers around the world. On the one hand, the company can leverage its practical manufacturing experience to enhance its software development, and on the other hand, apply its expertise in 3D printing software to develop high-quality, cost-effective manufacturing solutions for metal 3D printing.”
It’s a good move because metal 3D printing is perhaps the AM discipline most advanced into production end-use parts, thanks to the efforts of several aerospace companies. It’s also one of the more profitable operations, if one can properly organize the equipment and processes involved.
And that’s exactly what Materialise is doing. If this approach works in Germany, it is likely to be repeated in other regions.