EOS is considered one of the top manufacturers of 3D printing machines worldwide. The company which was founded in 1989 (30 years ago!) by Dr. Hans J. Langer (below) and Dr. Hans Steinbichler in Gräfelfing, Germany, aimed to develop a 3D printing stereolithography machine according to the specifications of a specific client – BMW. It’s interesting to see that from the very beginning, EOS focused on how 3D printing technology is used in an industrial setting. Over the years EOS preserved that initial orientation and took it further by establishing a holistic approach to the technology, addressing the various needs for industrial AM.
Not Just Machines
When it comes to machines EOS specializes in both polymer and metal additive manufacturing, their technology encompasses Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) specifically the LaserProFusion which employs nearly one million diode lasers (process up top and part above), and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) such as the EOS M 400-4 with 4 lasers for increased productivity (below). The EOS machines are designed for industrial applications yet, “It’s not about the printers. It’s about the digital impact that starts with the digital-design software,” says Hans Langer. The machines are accompanied by a portfolio of plastic and metal materials for industrial use as well as design and process related software. Last November at Formnext EOS showcased the interaction of their hardware and software as a production cell, intended to create a smooth workflow from design, through the build process to quality assurance.
Parts of a Puzzle – or an Ecosystem
The notion of a holistic solution resonates through EOS. It’s not just the company itself that incorporates all aspects of the ecosystem, EOS Group actually includes not only EOS GmbH but a number of related business. The list is quite long, one example is DyeMansion, an AM post-processing company funded by EOS, another is the recent acquisition of Vulcan Labs. Some of their collaborating partners are AdditiveWorks developing simulation software, LINK3D which develops 3D printing workflow software, Premium AEROTEC, and Daimler are also working with EOS as part of the nextGenAM project, just to name a few (below screenshot from video – AEROTEC parts at nextGenAM). EOS is also part of ADAPT, the Alliance for the Development of Additive Processing Technologies, an industrial/academic consortium which aims to optimize processes, materials, and parts relating to AM. And then there is AM Ventures, founded in 2015 by Langer, which invests in 3D printing start-ups. As a separate business running alongside the EOS Group AM Ventures can facilitate growth in a non-linear way, allowing each startup to operate independently, which will hopefully lead back to a stronger ecosystem and a smooth and effective AM workflow.
Applying the System
The first product EOS developed was a 3D scanning device, the first customer interested in the device was BMW, which later requested EOS to create a customized machine for their needs. To this day BMW is still a customer along with companies such as Boeing, Siemens, and Lockheed Martin. We all know the GE 3D printed fuel nozzle – it was developed on EOS machines. It seems that at EOS they understand the importance of working together with partners as well as with their customers, following the cycle from possibility to reality and back. Every part and product additively manufactured can be a real-life use case, enabling learning from the challenges of the process which feeds to further developments and opens up even more possibilities and applications.
The Learning Curve
EOS’s strategy is based on helping companies understand how and where they can use AM – every player entering AM production, pushes the ecosystem forward leading to more players joining and potentially more customers. In order to support companies, EOS launched Additive Minds, a consulting division. “You need to have a business plan to buy a machine, That’s why we’re supporting our customers,” says Dr. Jose Greses, Regional Director at EOS, “We have a responsibility to grow them, support them and take them by the hand all the way until the final product is ready for production.” In one of the consulting projects EOS is working with Daimler’s EvoBus towards additively manufacturing spare parts on demand. In this case, EOS helped identify 2,600 possible parts, as a first test case 35 metal and polymer were chosen (below).
Consulting actually is a smart way to learn, on one hand, Additive Minds can help companies overcome the steep learning curve, on the other – every roadblock encountered, every problem solved in a specific case can later be applied in the development of future products and services. The same logic applies in Advanced Metal Powders (AMP) and in Additive Manufacturing Customized Machines (AMCM), two companies that are part of the EOS Group. Both provide specific solutions according to the customer’s needs (material or machine) – potentially these solutions can later become a standard product or service at EOS.
EOS is not only a part of the AM ecosystem but it can also be seen as a mirror exemplifying its intricacy. The vision and practice of the company demonstrate how technologies, solutions and most of all the links between them can bring the ecosystem forward.