Faculty intro: Daan Kersten

7 November 2016

SO TELL US, WHO’S DAAN KERSTEN?

I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of Additive Industries, a disruptive company that’s taking 3D metal printing from the prototyping space to the manufacturing floor.

WHAT IS 3D PRINTING EXACTLY?

3D printing, or Additive Manufacturing as it is industrially called, offers a totally new way of manufacturing parts. With 3D printing it is possible to build parts layer by layer. This is very different from the traditional subtractive method where you take away material to end up with the product that you need. 3D printing allows us to build products with much more freedom, bionic structures for example. these are structures like you see in nature, as opposed to the conventional structures which are very straight. Just think of the straight beams of a bridge. In additive manufacturing we focus on the places that need to be able to withstand more force. It is a bit comparable to the human body, bones are not completely straight, they are denser on the outside and somewhat thinner in the middle because the forces are less strong in the middle. Our method makes it possible to create light-weight parts. We can build lighter planes and rockets with it. The newfound design freedom allows us to build parts in one piece instead of separate pieces that you then have to weld together.

WHO WILL BENEFIT THE MOST FROM THIS DEVELOPMENT?

There is a large variety of markets that can benefit from 3D printing. Aerospace is important, they need light-weight parts. The same goes for automotive. The potential for medical implants is huge as well. Parts can be tailor-made to people, resulting in better implants. Whether you’re talking hips, knees, braces or hearing aids, we can scan the human body and make the perfect implant. Taking hips as an example; if we can make a hip that is identical to the original hip, the time that it stays in the body can be extended. Current implants have a maximum lifetime of 10 years. Young people that need hip replacements can only be operated at a higher age because you can only replace artificial hips once or twice. We are currently in the phase where good prototypes have shown the functionality of the technology. We are now moving into industrialization. People see that this technology is ready for serious production. Our company is supplying equipment to use this technology in an industrial setting for larger series. Because it is a digital technology we can make parts from one piece to larger series. This severely lowers the threshold to make products. This threshold is especially profound in the consumer space. Larger companies are better able to make certain parts at the moment due to high up-front investments. Usually, molds have to be made, machines have to be programmed, and a serious financial investment in technology has to be made. What you will see is that this 3D printing technology will converge with related digital technologies and democratize it in a similar way that software development has been democratized. People can make their own software at home, which hardly demands an investment. Soon, you’ll be able to manufacture parts at home, or perhaps use someone else’s machine that is part of a distributed manufacturing network. You just have to design the part, no up-front investment required to print your unique product. This democratizes manufacturing.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE GREATEST MISCONCEPTION REGARDING 3D PRINTING?

Most companies know that 3D printing is getting there. There has been a lot of coverage in the press. However, few companies realize that 3D printing will disrupt their business. It allows for new business models to occur. For personalized parts for example. I think it’s important that people take the opportunities that exist for their companies to branch out into new applications. To address new customer needs. I would also like to make them aware of the rise of new competitors from completely new angles. Currently, many large manufacturing companies are vertically integrated. They have their own machines, their own designers and their own logistics. They own the complete value chain. We expect that this digital technology will allow companies to be asset-light, to own only the idea or the design, or have access to the customer base at the other end. The supply chain in the middle will be distributed and can be owned by others. You just use the infrastructure to make your parts or products. To make sure that your idea makes it to the market. Our company started when we learned that manufacturing companies needed a new technology to make complex parts that couldn’t be made before. At the same time we saw 3D printing as a technology that was getting ready for industrial applications. We brought the two together and developed a new industrial system for 3D printing, including a software package to organize the workflow.

WHERE WILL WE SEE THE BIGGEST CHANGES DUE TO THE MANUFACTURING REVOLUTION?

Executives should ask themselves; “What would happen if a company like Uber or Airbnb enters my market?” You’ll see that the digitalization of manufacturing will lower the threshold for new entrants into the manufacturing space. That will allow newcomer to enter markets that, until now, were restricted to large corporates. Supply chains will look very different in the future. Many companies are vertically integrated at the moment. They own everything from the beginning to the end of the value chain and everything in-between. They own their own machines and have their own assembly facilities. In the future you’ll see companies being asset light. They design but outsource the manufacturing to experts in other fields. They buy the parts and sell them to their customers. This allows the technology to become much cheaper. If it is used more, it will become exponentially cheaper, driving manufacturing costs down. Many more companies will have access to manufacturing infrastructure, sharing it instead of owning it. Our role is to provide the technology to use as a shared manufacturing tool. At the same time we use a similar supply chain. We share our supply chain with companies in the Brainport region like ASML and Philips.