The manufacturing industry in Västra Götaland is currently going through a massive change. Is additive manufacturing to be part of it? Yes, says Hans Fogelberg, R&D expert, Västra Götalandsregionen.
Västra Götaland and the manufacturing industry have a rather special relationship. Unique, one might even say. One fifth of the entire Swedish work force in manufacturing is found within the region. The vehicle industry is the largest single sector in the regional economy. And, to add to that, VGR is right at the centre of the emerging Swedish battery and electrification cluster.
Even though industrial research isn’t traditionally a regional focus area, VGR has chosen to make an exception. The industry is in the middle of a major transformation, and to steer it in the right direction by promoting relevant initiatives, VGR has become a key player. But where does additive manufacturing (AM) fit in to all this?
“Additive manufacturing. I knew it would be of great importance to the Swedish industry in the future, but how far in the future? How fast would it grow? Perhaps the time had come to take AM into account”, says Fogelberg.
As you can see, it was not a given for the region to fund Application Center for Additive Manufacturing (AM Center) or its projects. But fund them they did. In fact, AM became one of the largest industry high-tech funding areas in the VGR portfolio.
“I figured that if we could coordinate the ongoing reshaping of the industry with the introduction of and shift into additive manufacturing, then perhaps we could gain a competitive advantage”, Fogelberg says.
Funding comes with expectations and obligations, of course. Among them are “volume capability”. Not only should AM components be of high quality, but the processes need to be automated and cost effective. Also, VGR expects AM Center, and large technology leaders within it, to create a new industrial ecosystem, or value chain, that small and medium-sized enterprises can jack into.
“The early adopters and technically advanced companies have a responsibility. For many businesses it’s a huge step to implement new technology. Any insight or competence gained in the field of AM need to trickle all the way down to the smallest businesses”, Fogelberg explains.
One of the VGR-funded projects within AM Center dealing with this specific issue is 3D-Action.
“3D-action is a stepping-stone. It opens the door to the world of AM for those who are incapable of opening it themselves. The project has the advantage of allowing everyone the opportunity to learn, try and play. But it is important that there are knowledgeable parties who can support them in the next step as well. Small businesses need security throughout the journey. They do not have the resources to hire specific AM personnel, or to buy the gear”, Fogelberg says and continues:
“There are several companies that have the right knowledge and equipment, it would be great if it were possible to order functioning subsystems from them, with support to put into operation”.
Recently, a new VGR-funded project called COMPASS II was initiated at the center. Its main purpose is to secure a long-term competence development for the benefit of partner companies and other organizations (private and public) that seek help in the field of additive manufacturing.
All in all, Fogelberg is happy with how far the center has come since it started. The expectations so far have all been met, and he sees a bright future ahead.
“I’m optimistic. I believe that the work we do within the center will be useful in the industrial transition. As long as the companies are willing. I see that contacts are being made, and information exchanged. That’s a good start”.
At the AM Center we offer the opportunity to test different additive manufacturing techniques including pre- and post-processing. We lower the threshold, and give small and medium-sized companies quick and easy access to the latest technology. The AM Center offers a wide range of expertise and services at all stages along the additive manufacturing value chain, for example in: