For those who came in late, Thyssenkrupp is famous for making steel, submarines and elevators, and supplies thousands of tonnes of metal and plastic products and provides supply-chain management services to a quarter of a million customers worldwide.
Some industrial components such as airline or wind-turbine parts can now be made by 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, in which objects are printed in layers directly from a computer design instead of being cut out of blocks of material.
This saves money on material costs by reducing the number of parts needed tenfold or more, and also saves time from design to manufacturing, allowing objects to be produced in small batches in a cost effective way.
Hans-Josef Hoss, an executive board member of Thyssenkrupp Materials Services division, said the company had invested already into the machines and the people.
“We start from the engineering side and deliver the final product with all aftersales and related services,” he said in a speech at an event during the Hannover Messe, the world’s biggest industrial fair.
Hoss said the centre would be inaugurated in September, and would produce both metal and plastic products.
General Electric is investing $109 million to expand a German 3D printing firm it bought last year – one of two it acquired at a total cost of over $1 billion – and would open a 3D printing customer centre in Munich.
Beancounters at Wohlers Associates think the use of 3D technology is surging. Sales reached $1 billion in 2007, jumped to $5.2 billion in 2015 and will hit $26.5 billion by 2021.