Boeing forms Direct Manufacturing Research Center with German university

Boeing (www.boeing.com), EOS Electro Optical Systems (www.eos.info), Evonik Industries (www.evonik.de) and MCP HEK Tooling (www.mcp-group.de) have joined with the University of Paderborn (www.uni-paderborn.de/en/) to form the Direct Manufacturing Research Center (DMRC).

An agreement was signed by representatives of the companies and the university to further the development of direct manufacturing processes and systems, i.e. the automatic, layered fabrication of component parts on the basis of a computer model. This cooperation builds on the expertise of the industrial partners ranging from aerospace, material production and equipment manufacturing and on the research capabilities of the University of Paderborn. The DMRC is scheduled to open in fall 2008.

“Direct manufacturing offers the potential of significantly reducing parts production costs, as well as enhancing the ability to fabricate more complex and more functional component parts,” Jeff DeGrange, chairman of the board of the DMRC consortium and Senior Manager of Direct Digital Manufacturing at Boeing Phantom Works said.

The DMRC will be located at the German University of Paderborn and builds on the University’s competencies in mechanical engineering, i.e. mechanics, lightweight construction, particle technology, polymer technology, and mechatronics, and in chemistry -- polymer materials, interface processes -- as well as computer sciences. “We are very pleased to be part of this consortium. It will provide our students, faculties and staff members with an opportunity to learn about the newest generation of direct manufacturing technology and to contribute our competencies in this field,” Professor Dr. Nikolaus Risch, president of the University of Paderborn said.

“The DMRC aims to become a leading research center for Direct Manufacturing. This technology provides the opportunity of creating high-value jobs for qualified employees. The strong medium-sized businesses in North Rhine-Westphalia and especially in Ostwestfalen-Lippe can benefit from this – in mechanical and medical engineering as well as in the aerospace and automotive industry,” Professor Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, minister for innovation of North Rhine-Westphalia said.

As opposed to common milling technologies, direct manufacturing technology automatically builds up parts in layers, e.g. with a laser, based on a computer-aided design (CAD) data set. While direct manufacturing technologies are already being used to develop prototypes, only limited cases of the production of small series of complex parts can be found. Preconditions for a more widespread use are technical solutions regarding quality and consistency of the production process, industrial standards, automation and production speed.

The industrial partners will contribute their core competencies to the research cooperation to approach these challenges in a joint effort: Boeing defines production process and system requirements from an aerospace standpoint. Evonik Industries produces polymer-based standard materials as well as material solutions tailored for direct manufacturing. EOS and MCP HEK Tooling will provide their expertise in the development of laser sinter and laser melting systems for metals and polyamides.

The four founding companies will invest into the DMRC a total of 2 million Euros over the contract period of 5 years which is equivalent to an annual contribution of 100,000 Euros per company. Additionally, the University of Paderborn will contribute 600,000 Euros. The DMRC explicitly invites new industry partners to join the DMRC to be able to continuously expand its research portfolio.

The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia will invest a 1.4 million Euros to improve the University of Paderborn’s research infrastructure for direct manufacturing. The funds will be used for the acquisition of equipment for the DMRC, thus establishing the basis for projects in this research area. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia also will co-invest up to 3.4 million Euros for DMRC research projects over the next five years should the industrial partners additionally contribute the same amount of funds. The partners expect the total funding of the DMRC to reach approximately 11 million Euros over the next five years.

Research at the DMRC will be led by University of Paderborn professors and carried out by its technical staff and students. Seconded staff members from industry also will contribute and partly work on joint projects at the DMRC. Initial research will focus on improvement of the processes for laser sintering/melting technology for metal and plastic powder, and industry requirements for materials, training, and standards development.

Boeing is the world’s leading aerospace company and the largest manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military aircraft combined. Phantom Works conducts its own R&D and also works with top government, private and university research centers throughout the world to find the most innovative and affordable technology solutions for aerospace applications.

EOS was founded in 1989 and is today the world-leading manufacturer of laser-sintering systems. Laser-sintering is the key technology for e-Manufacturing, the fast, flexible and cost-effective production of products, patterns or tools. The technology manufactures parts for every phase of the product life cycle, directly from electronic data. Laser-sintering accelerates product development and optimizes production processes. EOS completed its business year 2006/2007 with revenues of 59.7 million Euro which is an increase of 14 percent compared to the previous year. The company employs more than 250 people worldwide, more than 200 of them at its headquarters in Krailling near Munich, Germany.

Evonik Industries is an industrial group from Germany which operates in three business areas: chemicals, energy and real estate. Evonik is a global leader in specialty chemicals, an expert in power generation from hard coal and renewable energies, and one of the largest private residential real estate companies in Germany. Evonik is active in more than 100 countries around the world. In its fiscal year 2007 about 43,000 employees generated sales of about 14.4 billion Euros and an operating profit (EBIT) of more than 1.3 billion Euros.

MCP HEK Tooling has been a supplier to the aircraft and automotive industries for more than 50 years. Universities, research and training establishments, polytechnical schools and colleges in 16 countries in Europe alongside, USA, Singapore, India, Australia and Korea are using its process as an integral step in teaching Rapid Prototyping and manufacturing technology. For the last 20 years, since the introduction of generative rapid prototyping (RP) technology, MCP HEK Tooling has worked together with all suppliers of rapid prototyping (RP) and rapid manufacturing (RM) technologies. Since the introduction of RP, MCP HEK has achieved a leading position as a supplier of systems for the on-going processing and production of multiples from RP and RM models. MCP HEK Tooling has 60 employees in factories in Lbeck, Borchen/Paderborn/Germany and Stone/England with a turnover of 20 Million Euros in 2007.

The University of Paderborn is a young (founded 1972), university with a profile primarily focusing on interdisciplinary cooperation across scientific disciplines and faculties. That has led to the development of a number of core competencies in the technical and scientific domain such as intelligent technical systems, mechatronics, optoelectronics, lightweight construction and polymer materials. Special focus is also put on a strong interconnection of internationally recognized basic research with application-oriented research.

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