Printing the route to success

3D printing methods open up new possibilities

Everything, anywhere at any time – that is what consumers are demanding. The consumer goods industry is being turned upside down by the Internet and by influencers. The consequence is sharp shifts in demand. New agile processes are needed to counter this trend. The 3D printing process can assist with this. Optima founded the Additive Innovation Center in July 2019 to take full advantage of the technology, and developed a strategy for additive manufacturing. Additive Manufacturing – this describes the manufacturing process in which a material is applied layer by layer in a computer-controlled process to produce three-dimensional components. 3D printing is opening up entirely new possibilities for machine builders like Optima.

New technology – new opportunities

For many manufacturing companies, the need is clear: the keyword is flexibility. This is where the greatest opportunity lies. From components up to entire functionalities, where producing them could previously have taken weeks or may not have been done at all, they can now be produced in a considerably shorter time. With 3D printing, production can be done anywhere – parts can be produced where they are needed. With additive manufacturing, a better price-performance ratio can be achieved, particularly with complex components.

Breakthrough in 3D technology

In the past, the problem with the conventional Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process was that the components only had limited resilience and so could not be used or could only be used to a limited extent in an industrial environment. 3D printing has now reached a second major stage in its development: Today, what is known as the SLS-3D printing process can even be used to print high strength metal parts. There is no end in sight for this development. Optima has established a multi-stage roadmap to make the best possible use of these technological advances. The newly created Additive Innovation Center started its work in July 2019 at the headquarters in Schwaebisch Hall. The 3D printing center acts as a lab, where all the standard 3D printing methods can be performed. In addition, an Innovation Space, a training and design area in the Additive Innovation Center for engineering, has been created based on agile principles. Since December 2019, employees with key roles are being trained there in 3D-compatible design, as 3D parts enable a completely new approach by the design department. Previously unimaginable parts are created from patterns found in nature, for example parts with a honeycomb structure which are more stable but only half the previous weight.

Close up of a sketch during training for new technologies
In the Additive Innovation Center's Innovation Space, Optima's engineering department is learning how to deal with the new technologies.
All current printing methods are possible

In the Additive Innovation Center, all the standard 3D printing methods are used. To produce prototypes quickly, Optima uses the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process, which has been successfully used in the automotive industry for many years and the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) process. The SLS process opens up a wide variety of materials, colors and subsequent treatments. A partner company contributes to the team advanced SLS processes to the team, bringing with it a wide variety of post-processing options. These include, for example, tinting and smoothing the components. Optima has also invested in the advanced multi-jet fusion technology which enables parts to be produced faster than with the SLS process. The breakthrough of SLS and multi-jet fusion printing technology has paved the way for companies to take 3D printing to an industrial level – far beyond just prototypes. At Interpack, Optima will be presenting a platform where customers can order their parts online.

Two men stand in front of a screen and construct new components

New parts are being created using completely new methods. Existing parts can be designed to be lighter and more stable than before and with less material.

An employee operates a machine for surface finishing

All the usual methods of surface finishing are possible – for example, the smoothing and coloring of the components or subsequent mechanical processing.

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