The Additive Managing Advantage with Matthias Schmidt-Lehr, AMPOWER

Matthias Schmidt-Lehr is a distinguished expert in additive manufacturing and a Managing Partner at AMPOWER, a consulting firm that focuses on industrial 3D printing. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering and has garnered significant experience in the sector, particularly in metal additive manufacturing.

At AMPOWER, Matthias leads strategy and business development, providing advisory services to companies looking to integrate additive manufacturing into their operations. He has been instrumental in executing numerous successful strategy projects for top-tier OEMs. His work involves strategy development, training, part qualification, and technology benchmarking.

Ahead of the inaugural Additive Manufacturing Advantage: Aerospace, Space, and Defense, I asked Matthias Schmidt-Lehr for his insights and some highlights regarding the additive manufacturing market and aerospace data.

3D Printing Industry readers can now buy the 2024 AMPOWER Report at a 20% discount using the code “3DPI2024”.

MP: What is the Additive Manufacturing Advantage for aerospace?

MSL: The Aerospace sector wants high part performance and has high-quality standards. Parts often go through a complex manufacturing process chain to achieve minimum material use in the aircraft at maximum part performance. This leads to very high part costs, especially in combination with typically low manufacturing volumes and a high number of variants. All these factors are beneficial for Additive Manufacturing. The base principle of tool-free manufacturing which enables endless variants and cost-independent manufacturing volumes as well as the possibility of optimized designs with minimum material consumption make AM the perfect Aerospace technology. 

Once qualification hurdles are overcome, AM will be a major manufacturing technology in this industry, enabling high-performance applications and an overall cost reduction and performance increase of future aircraft.

MP: What specific metrics does AMPOWER track regarding the adoption of AM technologies in the aerospace industry?

MSL: For the AMPOWER Report, the team interviews major global users of AM about their current stage of AM. The interview partners are asked about the number and type of printers in operation, future potential increase of capacity, the usage and type of feedstock used as well as the type of applications and utilization of the print farms. In combination with a 5-year forecast, this data provides a comprehensive database for the global Aerospace AM market.

MP: Can you detail the growth trends in aerospace AM that AMPOWER has observed over recent years?

MSL: The Aerospace industry, including the civil, military and space segments, grew between 25-30% in the past years which reflects the strongest industry segment growth in AM. Looking just at metal, the growth is above 40%.

MP: What are the most significant challenges and barriers in aerospace AM that your statistics have highlighted?

MSL: A few years ago, the majority of materials and parts printed at aerospace companies, went into R&D applications and qualification. Endless test builds have dominated the printing activities at most Aerospace users. This is now constantly changing towards a higher share of end applications, which means, the main challenge of qualification and certification is about to be overcome step by step.

MP: How comprehensive is the data on new AM materials and processes being adopted in the aerospace industry?

MSL: In the questionnaire, the AMPOWER team also asks about future investments and shifts regarding machine type and technology as well as the material group. In aerospace, there has not been a major shift in the past, and users are predominantly focusing on a handful of AM technologies and materials due to the enormous qualification hurdles. However, in metal, we see an advanced interest in DED and Wire Arc technologies, while in polymers, companies hope for high-performance material advancements especially for powder-based technologies.

MP: Can you discuss any case studies where AM has significantly impacted aerospace design or manufacturing processes?

MSL: Especially in civil aviation, we have seen significant advancements in metal in the past years at companies such as Airbus. In cooperation with their supplier, Premium Aerotec, the company has implemented several L-PBF and DED applications into their aircraft production. This marks a significant milestone in AM due to the extremely high qualification hurdles in civil aviation. 

Another massive breakthrough is expected with the next generation of aircraft, that Airbus and other OEMs are working on. It is much easier to implement new manufacturing methods and part designs in new aircraft rather than changing an existing application route. 

Register now for Additive Manufacturing Advantage: Aerospace, Space, and Defense, a free online event on July 16th.

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