Interview with Frank Herzog

“The major breakthrough for industrial 3D printing will come.”

Frank Herzog is one of the pioneers of 3D printing. He even founded a sponsoring society for digital technologies. Frank Herzog is one of the forerunners of 3D printing. Even after his company Concept Laser was sold to General Electric, this topic remains his main interest. On Monday, he founded a sponsoring society for next-generation digital technologies. The core of the initiative is an Additive Manufacturing and Lightweight Engineering (Additive Fertigung und Leichtbau) study program.

Mr. Herzog, 20 years ago you were among the pioneers of industrial 3D printing. Have we achieved more today than you expected back then, or is the development slower?

The speed of development was truly astonishing. It took one hour back then to print one cubic centimeter of steel. Today it is 40, or even much more. Enormous progress has been achieved since then with regard to machines and materials. Nowadays, knee implants are being mass-produced by printing. There are lots of applications in aircraft manufacturing.

However, the major breakthrough in broad mass production has not come off yet.

That is true. But it will come, of that I am sure.

What is still stopping it?

There is a kind of Champions League of companies that fully utilize the new opportunities. And then, there is also a County League: You have the machines but basically no idea what to do with them. You must conceive your products in an entirely different way, create the culture for innovations and disruptions.

Or perhaps the printers are simply still too slow and expensive?

I am quite convinced that it will get much quicker. We’ve got to industrialize the sector. The final ten percent that make it all robust and reliable are the hardest. That is why I got General Electric on board. It takes players with financial strength.

What do you mean by “industrialization”?

Automation, for example. The machines must be integrated into the production environment. Powder, for example, is still being handled in a far too casual manner. Machine manufacturers must work together and establish standards.

The sale of Concept Laser was supposed to promote consolidation, wasn’t it?

That’s right. GE has the energy and the financial capabilities. We need big players with a global footprint to get 3D printing to a new level.

What is it that still hinders the development?

We need intensive education and advanced training. We need to guide the young talents toward further development of an additive mindset.

Could Germany otherwise lose its pioneering role again?

Germany has often been in the vanguard of new technologies. But where implementation was concerned, we failed time and again. We must prevent it from happening with 3D printing. When Elon Musk announced his plans regarding a gigafactory, he praised the German engineering skill. I think he really meant it. We boast these abilities in additive manufacturing as well. My aspiration is to use education and advanced training initiatives to make sure that it remains this way.

Thank you for the interview, Mr. Herzog!

Höpner, Axel


Source: Handelsblatt online dated 11/19/2019 
Frank Herzog: „Der Durchbruch wird kommen“ (handelsblatt.com)