Technology of the Future? Interview with Rainer Gebhardt about the drupa touchpoint 3D fab+print – Part 1

Can additive manufacturing processes like 3D printing be described as future technologies? Rainer Gebhardt, Project leader of the VDMA working group Additive Manufacturing, has answered our questions and has given us an overview of the opportunities and potentials.

Rainer Gebhardt, the Project leader of the VDMA working group Additive Manufacturing, has answered our questions on the topic 3D and “additive manufacturing”. The VDMA is one of our partners of the hot spot “touchpoint 3D fab+print” at drupa 2020. The technology around 3D printing has been a very important point in our industry over the past few years. Despite, or maybe even because of the frequent usage of this technique, it is listed as a future technology. There are constantly extensions, new discoveries and new ideas coming up. The development takes place rapidly compared to other technologies or procedures. But can you therefore really talk of additive manufacturing processes as the technology of the future – according to the drupa slogan “embrace the future”?


drupa: What does your working group deal with in general, when you are not just planning the touchpoint 3D fab+print?

We are represented at a lot of other events for example. One of our goals is external networking of our member companies. That means we want to connect the people inside and outside of VDMA, so they can support each other, when cooperation is useful. That’s why we have a conference in May taking place in Stuttgart, where the topic will also be discussed. Additionally, it’s all about connecting the know-how of the member companies with their expectations and challenges in connection with additive manufacturing. That means, that we also have working groups. Here we are talking, amongst other things, about what the practice looks like, what is still missing and we exchange ideas about opportunities and challenges.

Besides that, of course we are active within the association, look after which companies are involved, so other branches of the mechanical engineering become aware of it, and we are proud of the increasing number of members who are illuminating different aspects. Furthermore, we do a lot of PR up to Berlin and Brussel. We are connected to standards departments and are always available for Interviews or similar things.


drupa: Can you briefly classify the additive manufacturing? Since when is it possible to print in 3D? What kind of developments were necessary for that and why did corresponding procedures have such a breakthrough power?

The first patents, which came up for the idea of 3D printing, should be about 30 years old by now. Of course it took some time until the idea got more specifically, because there had to be considered so many topics and possibilities. How can I prepare the data this way? How can I supply the printer with the necessary information? When it comes to industrial applications, how do I get from a construction to a three-dimensional structure? How do I manage this translation in the digital way? There were a lot of steps in between, which were necessary to “print in 3D” for the first time at all. It is about more than just an inkjet printer, for example, which simply puts several layers on top of each other, which were previously built in only one layer. The concept needed to be fully matured and developed over several years. And when the first proper attempts came up – that should have been around the turn of the millennium – the environment just hadn’t been ready yet. This development has only taken place over the last two decades. But compared to other conventional and traditional production that was still quite fast, which is indeed a pretty impressing performance, especially when you think about how many work steps belong to a 3D-printed result.


drupa: For drupa 202 the working group Additive Manufacturing of VDMA will be responsible for the content design and the realization of the lecture program od touchpoint 3D fab+print at drupa 2020. Can you reveal a few exclusive details and highlights for us, which are waiting for the visitors?

With the lecture program of touchpoint 3D fab+print our major goal is to give our visitors the opportunity to get an insight into the production chain of additive manufacturing – of course customized for our visitors of the show. We are looking forward to all of the new suppliers of the technology, who are very experienced in 3D printing and can correspondingly supply our visitors with information. In addition to that we will have some representatives from the research community. Amongst others the Uni Duisburg, that illuminates the subject with a very good overview in my opinion. We will present international experts, who are dealing with coating technologies, design optimization and process simulation, so the industrial production is made possible. Moreover, we can attend experts who have lots of experience with the usage of 3D printing and the whole production process. Also a company from the forging sector, that uses 3D printing, will introduce its services and will demonstrate, how the process chain can be optimized. You see, touchpoint 3D fa+print will be characterized by a great variety and we will give a very good overview over the whole development and production chain.


Thank you very much Raine. Gebhardt. We are very happy about the cooperation for our drupa touchpoint 3D fab+print and we can’t wait for June 2020. But for now you can be excited for the second part of the exciting interview – stay tuned!

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