Technology May Bring New Industrial Revolution

(Spiegel.de) German 3-D printing specialists are growing at a rate that has a number of industry experts hoping this nascent digital industrial age will finally see the emergence of new innovation drivers “made in Germany.” German companies are seen as leaders, especially when it comes to 3-D printing of metals.

Authors Rosenbach and Schulz find it surprising that so far only around two dozen companies dominate the international market. Along with US giants 3-D Systems and Stratasys, about 10 German companies provide this technology, some of them market leaders in their respective segments, for example Eos and Concept Laser, both in the southern state of Bavaria.

3D printing, used industrially for the past few decades, is poised to break into the mainstream. The technology could bring the next industrial revolution. All 3-D printing techniques follow the same principle: The object grows layer by layer, each one just a few hundredths of a millimeter thick, until it acquires the desired shape. This technique can be applied to steel, plastic, titanium, aluminum and many other metals. Assembling, screwing together, adhering, welding — all these processes are rendered obsolete when even the most complex shapes can be produced by a single machine using this casting technique. The end result can be an artificial hip, a hearing aid, a cell phone case, customized footwear or even the Urbee, a prototype car that has been making a splash.