March 29, 2023
Manja Franke, Chief Strategy Officer, AMEXCI
Manja Franke spent several years with EOS in her role as Technical Sales Engineer responsible for aligning technical customer requests with the internal R&D. In 2020 she relocated to Sweden and took over the Research Department of AMEXCI where she also became part of the management team. AMEXCI is an additive manufacturing company founded by twelve industrial companies in Sweden. AMEXCI’s vision is to futureproof Nordic industries by accelerating the industrial adoption of additive manufacturing technologies. In July 2022 she took on her new role as the Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) responsible for AMEXCI’s strategic direction for the Research and Innovation department.
We recently had a chance to talk just as AMEXCI had celebrated its fifth anniversary. How would you sum up the first five years and what do you expect AMEXCI will bring to the additive manufacturing (AM) industry in the next five years?
Manja: Over the past five years, AMEXCI has made a significant development in the AM industry, including partnering with industry leaders, universities, and research institutions to support the development and implementation of new AM technologies. We have also provided access to state-of-the-art AM equipment, training and education programs, and funding opportunities for AM research and development.
In the next five years, I expect that AMEXCI will continue to play a significant role in advancing the use of AM technology especially in Sweden and the Nordics. With the ongoing development of new materials, equipment, and software for AM, I believe that AMEXCI will be at the forefront of innovation in the industry, helping to drive the development of new applications and use cases for AM.
AMEXCI is such an interesting organization in that it was developed as a center of excellence for a very large portion of the Swedish industrial infrastructure. I mean, you represent a very diverse set of end markets and applications—from chainsaws to fighter jets! How has this diverse viewpoint affected AMEXCI’s approach to sustainable AM practices? What areas of commonality have you seen, and where have your challenges been?
Manja: AMEXCI’s diversity in end markets and applications has given it a unique perspective on the use of AM technology in different industries. This diversity has allowed AMEXCI to identify areas where AM can provide significant benefits, including increased efficiency, reduced waste, and improved sustainability. At the same time, it has also highlighted the challenges that different industries face when it comes to implementing sustainable AM practices.
One area of commonality that AMEXCI has identified is the importance of design for additive manufacturing (DfAM). By designing parts specifically for AM, manufacturers can reduce material waste, improve part performance, and reduce the carbon footprint of their operations. AMEXCI has developed training programs and resources to help companies across different industries adopt DfAM practices, which have been critical in driving the adoption of sustainable AM practices.
We have also encountered challenges in implementing sustainable AM practices across different industries. Some of the industries we’re working with, are having high requirements on quality and safety and are therefore more limited on implementation of adopted workflows. The key is to work closely with industry partners and stakeholders to overcome these challenges and drive the growth of sustainable AM practices.
In terms of standardization across AMEXCI’s 12 founding shareholders, how important is it for industry stakeholders to work together to establish standards for materials, data transparency, environmental impacts, research frameworks and more?
Manja: Establishing standards for above mentioned aspects of additive manufacturing is crucial for the continued growth and adoption of this technology. This is particularly important for an organization like AMEXCI, which represents a diverse range of industries and applications.
The development of standards for handling and testing AM materials, for example, can help ensure consistent quality and performance across different manufacturers and end users. This is especially important for safety-critical applications like aerospace.
Similarly, establishing standards for data transparency is important for ensuring that AM parts can be tracked and traced throughout their lifecycle, from design to production to use and disposal. This can help manufacturers and end users
identify potential quality issues or other concerns, and take corrective action as needed.
In terms of environmental impacts, standards can play a critical role in helping manufacturers reduce the carbon footprint of their operations. By establishing benchmarks for energy consumption, waste reduction, and other sustainability metrics, standards can help drive the adoption of more sustainable practices across the industry.
Finally, the development of standards for research frameworks can help ensure that new AM technologies are developed in a safe, ethical, and responsible manner. This is especially important as the technology continues to evolve and new applications are identified.
Since its founding, AMEXCI has been, in particular, at the forefront of developing safe and effective EH&S processes for AM operations. Can you speak of these initiatives, and where you see EH&S going in the future to ensure widespread, safe adoption?
Manja: We have been from the start of AMEXCI, interested in understanding and developing safe and effective EH&S processes for AM operations. One of the main challenges of AM is that it involves the use of high-powered lasers, nanosized particles and other materials that can pose health and safety risks to workers and the environment. AMEXCI has developed a number of initiatives to address these risks and promote safe AM operations.
One of these initiatives is the development of EH&S guidelines for AM, which provide best practices and recommendations for safe AM operations.
Another key initiative is the development of education programs and resources to help manufacturers and end-users adopt safe AM practices. These programs cover topics such as laser safety, material handling, and waste management, and are designed to help workers and managers understand the risks associated with AM and take appropriate safety measures.
Looking to the future, EH&S will continue to be a critical area of focus for the AM industry. As the use of AM expands and new applications are identified, it will be important to develop and adapt EH&S and training programs guidelines in close collaboration between different stakeholders to address these new challenges.
What technologies or materials would you like to see make a big leap forward in the next year? Next 3 years? industry?
Manja: In the next year, I expect to see significant developments in regards to multi-material printing. This development is an area of great interest, as it allows for the creation of complex geometries and new materials that were not previously possible.
Also the field of metal additive manufacturing is rapidly advancing, and I believe we will see new developments in the next year that will allow for faster printing speeds with e.g. beam shaping technologies while improving the surface finishing and achieving better accuracy. Already now, OEMs work on improving the process parameters which e.g. allows less supports and therefore the downskin quality is improved. We may also see the adoption of new materials that will expand the range of applications for metal AM.
Looking ahead to the next three years, I am hoping to see the technology advance for serial production. Additive manufacturing has traditionally been used for prototyping and small-batch production. However, advances in technology and materials can enable the use of AM for large-scale manufacturing, making it a more viable option for serial production.
The development of sustainable and recyclable materials is a major area of focus for the AM industry. I would like to see new materials that are more environmentally friendly and easier to recycle. We may also see advances in the recycling of AM parts and scrap, making it easier to recover and reuse materials for new applications.
Overall, the next year and the next three years promise to be exciting times for the AM industry, with significant progress expected in technology, materials, and applications.
We discussed the need for more research. Can you summarize or categorize what information AMEXCI’s group members are looking for? Is it just total cost per part? Is it environmental impacts? Or is it something else? What areas would you like to see studied?
1. Material performance and properties: One of the key challenges in AM is achieving consistent material properties, particularly for high-performance applications. More research is needed to better understand how different AM processes, materials, and post-processing techniques affect material properties and performance, especially in regards to redundancy across the same print house or several around the globe.
2. Process optimization and quality control: There is a need for more research on process optimization and quality control to ensure the reliability and repeatability of AM parts. This includes the development of new process monitoring and control techniques, as well as improved post-processing and inspection methods.
3. Sustainability and environmental impact: The AM industry is keenly aware of the need to reduce the environmental impact of AM processes and materials. More research is needed to understand the full lifecycle impact of AM parts, from raw material production to end-of-life disposal.
4. Cost and economics: While the cost of AM has been declining in recent years, it is still more expensive than traditional manufacturing methods for many applications. More research is needed to better understand the total cost of ownership of AM systems, including the costs of materials, equipment, post-processing, and quality control.
5. Applications and design: As AM continues to mature, there is a growing need for more research into new applications and design methods that can take advantage of the unique capabilities of AM. This includes the development of new design rules, software tools, and manufacturing strategies that can unlock new possibilities for AM.
Overall, there is a wide range of topics that the AM industry is interested in researching and improving, above just highlighting the most important ones for us and our customers.
The AMGTA has several research projects underway and will launch additional projects this year to better understand the environmental impacts of AM. How important is this type of independent research?
Manja: Research is critical to better understand the environmental impacts of AM and other emerging technologies. By conducting independent studies, the AMGTA can provide valuable insights into the sustainability and environmental impact of AM, which can help inform policy decisions, support more sustainable business practices, and drive innovation in the industry.
The AMGTA’s focus on conducting research into the environmental impact of AM is particularly important given the growing interest in the technology and the potential for it to transform manufacturing and other industries. As with any technology, it is important to understand the full lifecycle impacts of AM, including the environmental impacts associated with the extraction, processing, and disposal of raw materials, as well as the energy and resource use associated with the production of AM parts.
In addition to providing valuable insights into the environmental impact of AM, independent research can also help to build trust and confidence in the technology.
How important is the AMGTA being an independent voice for increasing AM acceptance and adoption to the broader manufacturing and sustainability community?
Manja: The AMGTA’s role as an independent voice for increasing AM acceptance and adoption is critical to the broader manufacturing and sustainability community. By serving as a platform for collaboration and knowledge sharing, the AMGTA can help to build awareness and understanding of the potential of AM, while also addressing concerns and challenges related to the technology.
Anything else you would like to share with the other AMGTA members?
Manja: By working together and sharing insights and expertise, AMGTA members can help to drive innovation, address challenges, and unlock the full potential of additive manufacturing.
I believe that we can through this network leverage the latest technologies and materials to push the boundaries of what is possible with AM.