This year, Munich-based EOS is celebrating 30 years in business.
In that time, founder of EOS and now Executive Chairman of the EOS GROUP, Dr. Hans J. Langer has overcome many hurdles. He founded EOS back in 1989 shortly after his former employer rejected a project he had suggested. So, he decided to embark on the venture alone. In BMW, he won his first important customer. Others soon followed.
The company then went through years of patent litigations surrounding EOS’ sale of stereolithography platforms during the 1990s. It was settled when EOS decided to focus on powder-based additive manufacturing (AM) only. During this timeframe the company also introduced its first system for metal 3D printing. What followed were years of tech development, and the introduction of rapid prototyping and metal 3D printing technologies to a plethora of customers, from automotive to medical professionals, from North America to China.
But it was in 2014 when Langer’s long-held ambition began to be realised. GE Aviation introduced its additively manufactured Leap fuel nozzle tip, in which 20 assembled pieces were reduced to one, and weight was cut by 25%. It was the result of ten years’ work since Morris Technologies, the service provider acquired by GE in 2012, first invested in metal 3D printing.
“We work with the engineering teams of our large customers on solutions that production people cannot even think of,” Langer told TCT. “Innovation must go beyond just innovating the EOS serial production system. It needs a big picture approach to support customers in generating totally new applications that were not thinkable before.”
In subsequent conversations between senior management of GE and other OEMs and EOS, it was agreed it should not take ten years to go from early application development to serial production. A 3D printing system alone was not going to cut it. So, EOS introduced its ‘Additive Minds’ consulting unit to speed up customers’ learning and innovation curves, supporting them to find the right applications for 3D printing, develop them, and then ramp up to scale production.
But Langer was thinking even bigger – that a whole ecosystem, serving the entire value chain, would be necessary.
The EOS ecosystem
That word, ecosystem, has dictated most of the decisions made by Langer since. At the forefront of his mind is a seamless, efficient AM integration in existing production environments, the combination of industrial 3D printing with conventional manufacturing technologies, and the continuous optimisation of part and data flow. These are elementary requirements, but their implementation is of the utmost importance.
The EOS Ecosystem today comprises of innovators and venture groups, the Additive Minds consultancy division and external business partners.
In 2015, Langer founded AM Ventures, a strategic investor focusing on start-ups, which develop solutions along the whole value chain in industrial 3D printing and have respective expertise in design, simulation, processes, powder, and post-processing. It has been established as a separate business alongside the EOS GROUP, Langer convinced that start-ups need to operate independently to give the project the best chance of succeeding. AMbition, a new unit within the venture group, is now offering support to customers on their way from the initial product idea to the final, manufactured part.
To fully concentrate on the further development of the EOS Ecosystem, Langer stepped away from the position of CEO of EOS GmbH in 2017, with Adrian Keppler assuming the role. As Executive Chairman of the EOS GROUP, Langer initiated some new companies: Advanced Metal Powders (AMP), which develops new metal powders for industrial players; Additive Manufacturing Customized Machines (AMCM), which develops platforms according to customer specifications with the potential that they are later made available through EOS as standard platforms; and Additive Manufacturing Metals (AMM), a team focused on customer-specific metal applications.
“We have seen that our customers are now on the way to build up digital factories. If they are based on additive, it turned out that the biggest hurdle for the customer to get to production is to collect all the skills and know-how that is necessary to integrate the complete production process. This is why we started to set up EOS Additive Minds and the EOS Ecosystem and constantly expand it,” Langer explained.
“What we want to offer to the customer is a highly productive, self-learning AM cell where we increase the overall equipment efficiency, have clear interfaces upstream and downstream, where we can then interlink with post-processing technologies, whether it is milling, grinding, heat treatment. This will allow an optimised flow of data and parts end to end along the production process,” Dr. Adrian Keppler, CEO of EOS, offered.
The now not the wow
While with its ecosystem of technology, venture groups, and consultancy divisions EOS hopes to ‘change the world’, Keppler reasons it’s not about the ‘wow’, what could potentially be achieved by using AM, but about the ‘now’, what is already possible with existing AM technology.
At the end of 2018, Airbus Helicopters announced the start of the large scale additive manufacturing of A350 XWB components which are set to take to the skies in 2020. Meanwhile, according to GE Aviation, more than 30,000 Leap fuel nozzle tips have been additively manufactured in five years.
For EOS, it’s about making breakthroughs like that more commonplace, converting application by application from traditional technology to 3D printing to add value, offer better performance, faster access, lower costs. Its participation in the NextGenAM project alongside Premium AEROTEC and Daimler is another example of that. Here, the partners are aiming to enable an automated and efficient metal additive manufacturing serial production solution, harnessing the advances in automatic design and robotics to facilitate connected end-to-end production processes.
Through its know-how, broad product portfolio, key collaborations, and growing ecosystem, EOS is increasingly supplying its customer base with all the solutions they need.
Langer’s final remarks, though teasing and ambiguous, serve to reinforce that.
“The world can’t imagine what people already make with our machines.”