Hans Langer, the founder and CEO of EOS and an acknowledged leading light in the 3D printing stratosphere, says small is the new large.
"Demand for very small parts – which are difficult to manufacture using conventional processes – is rising," Langer said. "Micro laser sintering provides solutions for three major trends: individualization, functional integration, and miniaturization."
Micro Laser Sintering, an additive manufacturing technology based on digital 3D design, enables the production of parts with complex 3D structures on a miniature scale, and as conventional manufacturing processes hit a wall when things get small, Langer says he can see the future in serving a "tiny" market.
Individualization of products, even in serial production processes, is simplified via 3D printing. Nozzles for the automotive industry, components for medical devices and custom jewelry are all niches which typify product ranges ripe for the growing demand for micro-parts.
To that end, additive manufacturing specialists EOS and laser micromachining systems provider 3D-Micromac are looking to exploit that market segment with their joint-venture company in micro laser sintering.
Dubbed 3D MicroPrint GmbH, seven years of collaborative technology development went into a venture aimed at serving the needs of those bent on creating tiny, but essential parts to serve specific markets.
"Our timing is virtually perfect," said Tino Petsch of 3D-Micromac. "The current 3D printing hype shows that our investment in the development of micro laser sintering systems was exactly right."
Based in Chemnitz near Leipzig in the German region of Saxony, 3D MicroPrint, led by Petsch and Joachim Göbner, is already up and running on the Chemnitz Smart Systems Campus.
"Working with layer thicknesses of less than five microns, focus diameters of less than thirty microns and a powder particle size of less than five microns, the micro laser sintering technology opens up new dimensions," Göbner said. "It's possible to produce moveable component assemblies."
Göbner says that a production run made up of a single part can be manufactured at a reasonable cost, enabling mass customization of tiny products, and that's a possible game-changer.