Potentials in the design of additive components rarely get exploited

Dr. Ole Bröker
Dr. Ole Bröker

trinckle 3D GmbH develops software for additive manufacturing. Customers of the Berlin start-up can individualize 3D components with their cloud software in a mostly automated design process, while also involving their final customers.

By Peter Trechow, VDMA Germany

In this interview, Dr. Ole Bröker, trinckle’s head of business development & consulting, explains why additive manufacturing is needed for a new understanding of construction and design.

Peter Trechow: Could you provide a short introduction to your company trinckle 3D GmbH?
Dr. Ole Bröker: We are a spin-off of the FU Berlin, founded in 2013, and today, we have twelve employees. Back then, we were the first German online service for 3D printing. Our focus lies on software development for additive manufacturing. We regard ourselves as partners for companies that want to enter this sector or that are already active in it. Our software platform helps them to exploit the technology’s whole potential.

Which part of additive manufacturing’s value chain do you cover?
Bröker: Our decided focus is on software. Our software helps customers optimize the construction of individual components as well as individualize serial parts, and to automate as far as possible. Simply put, customers define the demands components will face. Out of this follow the rules on which basic design relies. If these parameters can be represented mathematically, then this parametric design can be configurated in any way possible and be optimized for additive manufacturing. As an example, a gripper for robots relying on a basic design can be formed in any way possible, in order for its shape to perfectly fit the product that will be gripped. Entrepreneurs can also involve their customers in the design and construction process via our software platform.

Additive manufacturing is maturing. Does this mean that new customers’ expectations become more realistic? And who are these customers?
Bröker: Among our customers are companies from the consumer goods industry – for example, manufacturers of glasses, jewelry, or toys – as well as companies from medical technology, mechanical engineering, robotics, and from various other industrial branches. There are new customers with very high expectations as well as those who are pleasantly surprised at the state of the art and the possibilities of additive technologies. However, we also notice that expectations as well as application ideas are indeed becoming more realistic. We rarely happen upon exaggerated expectations, like the belief that 3D printing would soon replace all traditional manufacturing technologies. Customers do check beforehand for which applications additive manufacturing would be profitable: and those are mainly the individualization of products, light weight construction, and integration of functions into components, or fusing part groups into single components.

Where in the additive process chain do you perceive the biggest flaws?
Bröker: Hardware and materials are improving constantly. As software developers, we look more to the pre-chain. There, we see many construction engineers and designers persist in their old world with traditional construction rules – and then not be able to fully exploit the technological potentials of additive component design. They also shy back from involving their final customers in the design process. This defensive attitude blocks chances. After all, it’s not about transferring knowhow to final customers. It’s about exploiting the freedom in design of additive manufacturing in a way most suitable to their final customers’ needs – them being the ones who know these needs and demands best. Today, we are only at the beginning of possibilities. Young companies and designers, who have already learned about additive manufacturing at university, often come to us with really good ideas. They exploit potentials with nonchalance. This goes to show the meaning of education and training in additive manufacturing.

Keyword process chain: how high is the percentage of manual work in data handling and production?
Bröker: In data handling within our printing service, we have reached a high degree of automation. This is how we managed to establish ourselves as a start-up in the market. In design and construction, we are still working on minimizing manual work steps. However, users still need to enter basic design and parametrized construction specifications into our platform. But this is a one-time thing – free configuration and component optimization are completely automated. That means that customers have a configurable basic design out of which they can construe individualized glasses, grippers, or prostheses, without having their function suffering.

What were your goals and interests in joining the Additive Manufacturing Association?
Bröker: We are looking for contacts to companies that are already working in additive manufacturing or planning to do so. With our B2B software, we can drastically slim down their processes and enable new business models. In the Association, we are experiencing exciting discussions, and we see inspiring cases of application. With our knowhow, we also want to inspire members and commend ourselves as a technology partner.