Siemens and ORNL announce new R&D partnership to boost US manufacturing innovation

Industrial manufacturing firm Siemens has announced a new research and development (R&D) partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to enhance the adoption of additive manufacturing, workforce training, and decarbonization efforts within the US manufacturing sector. 

In particular, Siemens and the US Department of Energy’s (DoE) Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) at ORNL will build on the success of several previous DoE-funded projects to investigate new methods of advanced manufacturing and materials innovation. 

“The joint collaborative research done at MDF to address industrial problems demonstrates the success of the DoE’s MDF model and clearly shows the need for a path to industrialization through similar hubs in industry focusing on higher technology readiness levels,” said Dr. Anand Kulkarni, Senior Principal Key Expert at Siemens Technology. 

“Siemens launched its Charlotte Advanced Technology Collaboration Hub (CATCH) to fill this void.”

Siemens' new CATCH center is now open. Image via Siemens.
Siemens’ new CATCH center is now open. Image via Siemens.

Industrializing AM with CATCH

Siemens unveiled CATCH in April, spearheaded by its Digital Industries and Technology businesses alongside the now separate Siemens Energy. The new hub is enabling Siemens to partner with key OEMs, end-users, and US national laboratories like ORNL to further industrialize 3D printing in the region and beyond. 

CATCH will essentially provide the entry point for manufacturers to better understand the benefits of 3D printing to their product design and manufacturing processes, operational efficiencies, and bolstering their supply chain resilience. Upon its launch, the center became one of seven strategically placed hubs with “major AM ecosystems” across the globe to empower Siemens’ network of partners and customers to deploy 3D printing at scale. 

“We are excited to launch this new additive manufacturing hub and begin inviting customers in to collaborate and find ways to accelerate the industrialization of this technology using our machine-agnostic solutions,” said Tim Bell, Additive Manufacturing Business Manager at Siemens Digital Industries. “The benefits of additive manufacturing are clear – from faster time-to-market to better design through digital prototypes, to localized manufacturing helping to reduce supply chain constraints.

“We believe that the future of manufacturing is additive.”

ORNL 3D printed channel fasteners for Framatome's boiling water reactor fuel assembly. Photo via Framatome.
ORNL 3D printed channel fasteners for Framatome’s boiling water reactor fuel assembly. Photo via Framatome.

Siemens and ORNL’s R&D partnership

ORNL has long been at the forefront of research efforts to advance the adoption and industrialization of 3D printing across a wide variety of sectors in the US and beyond. Recent advances in this area include investigating 3D printed metal halide perovskites for a new breed of high-performance solar batteries, licensing out its novel method to 3D print nuclear reactor components, and the development of a unique polymer binding that can deliver “exceptional strength” to 3D printed parts. 

Perhaps the most high-profile development to come out of ORNL recently, though, is the patenting of the ‘SkyBAAM’ cable-hoisted construction 3D printing technology, which caused a stir among open-source advocates who compared the system’s similarities to one produced eight years ago called the Hangprinter. Hangprinter inventor Torbjørn Ludvigsen has now launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise the cash needed to challenge the SkyBAAM patent.

Back to the laboratory’s new R&D partnership with Siemens, the two firms are looking to continue their efforts to scale up the industrialization of additive manufacturing, improve workforce training in the sector, and aid decarbonization efforts. 

ORNL’s MDF has pioneered advancements within manufacturing analysis and simulation, as well as materials development, large-scale metal systems, robotics, and automation. The facility has played host to multiple DoE-funded projects to investigate various advanced manufacturing methods and the development of new and optimized materials. 

Together, Siemens’ CATCH and the MDF at ORNL will continue to work on new early-stage 3D printing-related R&D projects for the DoE on the path to additive manufacturing industrialization.

“ORNL and the researchers at MDF are proud to collaborate with innovative industrial partners like Siemens to help advance and revitalize the US manufacturing sector,” said Bill Peter, Advanced Manufacturing Program Manager at ORNL. 

“We recognize that our DoE-funded research is often best leveraged through regional and national collaborations like CATCH and the MDF, helping to advance additive manufacturing technology, drive workforce development, and create a more efficient and decarbonized manufacturing base.”

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Featured image shows Siemens’ new CATCH center is now open. Image via Siemens.