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Boeing, EOS Electro Optical Systems, Evonik Industries and MCP HEK Tooling form Direct Manufacturing

Boeing, EOS Electro Optical Systems, Evonik Industries and MCP HEK Tooling have joined with the University of Paderborn to form the Direct Manufacturing Research Center (DMRC).

An agreement was signed recently 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,” said Jeff DeGrange, chairman of the board of the DMRC consortium and Senior Manager of Direct Digital Manufacturing at Boeing Phantom Works, Boeing’s advanced research and development organization.

The DMRC will be located at the University of Paderborn and builds on the University’s competencies in mechanical engineering (i.e. mechanics, lightweight construction, particle technology, polymer technology, 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,” said Professor Dr. Nikolaus Risch, president of the University of Paderborn.

“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,” said Professor Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, minister for innovation of North Rhine-Westphalia.

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 announced today that it 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.

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