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SLM Solutions User Group
Stefan Ritt and Dr Markus Rechlin on stage introducing the gathered crowd to the SLM Solutions User Group Meeting.
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Though the part is made from one material and printed as one the differing structures in surface areas give the feel of different materials throughout.
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A part produced on an SLM machine - perfectly round and it bounces!
Lübeck is the second largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany. It was the capital city of the Hanseatic League - a powerful economic and defensive alliance that left a great cultural and architectural heritage. The Brick Gothic architecture looms over the UNESCO World Heritage Site giving the feeling that you have stepped back in time.
Don’t let the medieval gates fool you into believing that this is a city stuck in the past; Lübeck is home to one of the most forward-thinking, bleeding edge technology companies on the globe, SLM Solutions GmbH.
The company, which appointed a new management team at the back end of last year, hosted their third User Group Meeting last week and TCT was in attendance. The two-day conference was attended by in excess of 90 people from 25 different countries from as far as Melbourne and close as neighbouring Denmark.
Stefan Ritt, Export Sales and Marketing Manager said: “We want to involve our global distributors with customers from other countries who will bring case studies and interdisciplinary skills. This will strengthen and reinforce our network of working together.”
The night before the meeting kicked off had seen a meet-up where rumours of a potential Initial Public Offering (IPO) as reported by Reuters, were rife. The management team refused to comment on the rumours but when you consider the appointment of a new CFO and apparent hiring of Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse it would seem like a logical step for a company the size of SLM to follow in the footsteps of Voxeljet.
Another area of financial growth for the company could come in the form of Government funding. As new Managing Director Dr Markus Rechlin finished his opening statement saying that the “3D Printing market was reaching an inflection point and SLM Solutions want to play a leading role in the transition stage”, he welcomed State Secretary Ralph Müller-Beck to the stage.
Müller-Beck discussed how impressed he was with SLM’s growth and dedication to being at the forefront of this burgeoning technology. His visit was not just to speak to the 90+ strong audience but to see SLM’s wide appeal. Stefan Ritt, Export Sales and Marketing Manager, later said that the visit paved the way for a discussion with the Kiel Government to allocate some public funding to the growth of additive manufacturing in Germany.
“We wanted to show the local government who we are, we see so much support (for AM) in other countries but this morning we heard Müller-Beck say that there was a billion Euro grant for technology in general." Said Stefan, "We believe we should be able to take a bit of this money to further enhance additive manufacturing technology. The Secretary of State has invited us for further talks and to help build a group on Additive Manufacturing and that is a great achievement for today. ”
After the morning’s pleasantries and dignitaries it was down to the real reason for SLM Solution’s customers to attend the conference; talks and presentations from other users enlightening the audience on the latest software, drivers, materials and techniques for printing with an SLM machine.
Kicking off with Karel Brans and Ben de Brabanter of Materialise NV, who produced some astonishing statistics as an introduction to the Belgian company – in 2013 Materialise printed over 500,000 parts and are currently creating patient specific medical applications for over 5,000 patients per month.
SLM and Materialise have forged a partnership to streamline the process of using an SLM machine. Materialise have been building a bespoke build process platform which takes the steps required for printing a part down from six steps to four by using Magics and SLM Build Processor to perform all the pre-printing preparation you need. A similar system exists for EOS machines and Stefan Ritt expects the build processor to be available after June this year.
Next up was netfabb’s Alexander Oster with a fascinating talk on the structure of prints. “Nature uses very few materials but lots of structures. Using a similar structuring technique Additive Manufacturing’s few materials could have endless properties.”
Alexander proceeded to pass around a chair made in Nylon on an SLS machine. Though the material is printed with just one material netfabb’s structuring process means the cushioned areas feel cushioned and the hard areas are hard. His talk was aimed at inspiring people to think outside the box in terms of materials, examples such as a fog harvesting devices and additive manufactured fur enhanced the netfabb's reputation as one of the more innovative 3D printing companies.
To complete the day SLM hosted a variety of talks from users of their machines on topics such as printing in super-alloys printing with magnesium, aluminium from companies as big as Siemens and Universities from as far as Russia. The variety and knowledge of the speakers meant that there was something to take away for all SLM customers.
“We want to be different from other suppliers show to our customers that we are not shy, we are happy to bring them all together so that they can talk about us. This only benefits SLM Solutions as a company."
With confidence in their product and service like this SLM Solutions could certainly be putting Lübeck back on the map as one of Europe's leaders in industry and enterprise.