Siemens marks next milestone in IDEA project with pilot AM series production line launch

Last year, Siemens Energy took on the role of project manager in Germany’s Industrialization of Digital Engineering and Additive Manufacturing (IDEA) project, supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

The three-year collaborative venture was ultimately intended to enhance the serial production capabilities of laser-based powder bed fusion, increasing the technology’s productivity while cutting development and throughput times by 50%. Now, Siemens Energy has announced that the project has reached its next milestone, as the company has finally opened a test facility to pilot an additive manufacturing series production line.

3D printed nickel supper alloy turbine blades. Photo via: Siemens
Siemens’ award-winning 3D printed nickel superalloy turbine blades. Photo via Siemens

The pilot production line

The prototype production line, which can be found at the Siemens gas turbine factory in Berlin, was completed with the help of the BMBF’s ‘Line integration of Additive Manufacturing processes’ funding initiative. Its construction and subsequent operation mark an important step towards the industrialization of 3D printing in the country. The wider factory has previously been used by Siemens Energy to print some of its metal gas turbine components.

October 22 saw the inauguration of the production line with a virtual opening event, which included a ribbon-cutting ceremony conducted by Marcus Brücher, Vice President of Large Gas Turbines at Siemens Energy, and General Manager of the factory.

With the development and implementation phases out of the way, what follows is a validation process, whereby the project partners will determine how well the facility meets certain targets based on demonstration components printed on the production line. This second half of the IDEA project is expected to be completed in 2022.

Marcus Brücher cutting the ribbon. Photo via Siemens.

The IDEA project partners

The IDEA project partners include hardware and software specialists ALLMATIC, BCT, Jenoptik, ModuleWorks, and Siemens Digital Industries, and industrial 3D printer manufacturers EOS and TRUMPF. Liebherr, MBFZ toolcraft, and MTU Aero Engines are also involved. The project receives additional support from the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT), the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology (IPT), and the RWTH Aachen University

The virtual opening event also included a moderated panel discussion with four of these project partners. Comprising the panel was Marie Langer of EOS, Markus Seibold of Siemens Energy, Karsten Heuser of Siemens AG, and Klaus Parey of TRUMPF. 

IDEA Project Partners. Photo via Siemens.
IDEA Project Partners. Photo via Siemens.

A number of similar collaborative projects with European academic and industrial partners have been initiated in the past year alone. In July, 21 partners from 8 European countries came together to undergo the MULTI-FUN project – a three-year initiative aimed at advancing multi-material metal additive manufacturing. The project is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 innovation program and comprises two parts: the first involves improving the performance of 2020’s metal AM systems while the second will focus on enabling the multi-material fabrication of complex, large-scale 3D models.

May 2020 saw the launch of the POLYLINE project, a lighthouse project that brought together 15 industrial and research partners from across Germany to develop a digitalized AM production line. Much like the IDEA project, POLYLINE’s automated production line will focus on 3D printing serial polymer parts for the automotive sector.

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Featured image shows Marcus Brücher cutting the ribbon. Photo via Siemens.