You may know Clermont-Ferrand-based Michelin as one of the three largest tire manufacturers in the world, but the 112k-employee-strong company also publishes travel guides, hotel and restaurant guides (responsible for the famous “Michelin star”), maps, and road atlases. Still, manufacturing is at the heart of this global conglomerate, with 68 production facilities in 17 countries, along with R&D centers across three continents. It should be no surprise, then, that this tire giant is getting into metal 3D printing.
On September 4th, Michelin formed a joint business with a company called Fives, a 200-year-old industrial engineering group, that will develop metal 3D printing with Michelin and Fives each owning 50% of the company. While the €1.6 billion Fives Group has been designing manufacturing equipment in a number of sectors, Michelin has been working with metal 3D printing to mass manufacture molding parts that could not be made any other way in order to develop unique truck and car tires. The venture, Fives Michelin Additive Solutions, will see €25 million of investment from the partners over the course of the first three years to employ a 20 person team near Michelin’s headquarters in Clermont-Ferrand.
The goal is to develop metal 3D printers and production shops on a global scale and to “become a key player in metal 3D printing.” In addition to creating the machines themselves, the partners plant to provide a complete production line for 3D printing services, including “redesign of parts, definition of the manufacturing process, installation, production support, training, etc.” Given the success of the two partners involved, I wouldn’t be surprised if Fives Michelin Additive Solutions didn’t become a key player in the field and that, sooner or later, we’ll see a Michelin Man 3D printed out of metal.
What’s interesting to me about this story is not only that giant companies are increasingly stepping into the 3D printing space, overshadowing the medium-sized fish – GE, Autodesk, HP, Intel, Microsoft, etc., but that the France’s 3D printing scene is really starting to grow. In addition to Sculpteo’s recent funding and partnership with HP, Prodways has become a global player and Sketchfab is increasingly essential to the 3D ecosystem. In other words, if I want to stay in this business, I think I might have to learn French. C’est la vie!