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Dynamics of Digitalisation: Ralf Anderhofstadt on the Potential of 3D Printing Alongside Future Technologies

Entering the world of 3D printing opens up transformative opportunities for companies, but getting started is the toughest challenge for most businesses. The transition from traditional methods to innovative processes requires courage and a high level of commitment to innovation, emphasises Ralf Anderhofstadt, expert in industrial 3D printing technology and author of the book ‘Disruptive 3D Printing’. In an interview with 3Druck.com, he explains how companies can achieve such a shift in mindset and highlights the potential that arises from close integration with other future technologies. In this context, he also introduces his new course ‚Digitalisierungsdynamik durch 3D-Druck’ (Digitalisation dynamics through 3D printing) for the first time.

Ralf Anderhofstadt is Head of the Centre of Competence Additive Manufacturing and the external consulting unit ‘AMS – Additive Manufacturing Solutions Daimler Truck’ as well as project manager of the cross-functional 3D printing project at Daimler Truck AG. For several years, he and his teams have been in charge of the introduction of industrial 3D printing into the various processes at Daimler Truck. This includes the management and integration of numerous national and international divisions within the Group with the aim of establishing a digital 3D printing business model. In his role as head of the AMS consulting unit, he and his team also support the introduction of industrial 3D printing at various national and international companies and corporations beyond the doors of Daimler Trucks.

At the same time, he is active in various expert committees such as the VDMA and the VDI expert committee ‘Legal framework conditions of additive manufacturing’, works as a lecturer specialising in 3D printing, is a lecturer for numerous training courses in the field of additive manufacturing at various educational and advanced training institutions and is also a member of the advisory board of the 3D-Druck e.V. association.

His first book ‘Disruptiver 3D-Druck’ was published by Hanser Verlag in August 2022 and uses practical examples to show the great potential and opportunities of additive manufacturing for various industries. It also focuses explicitly on the changes to value chains and the emergence of new, disruptive business models through 3D printing. The English version ‘Disruptive 3D Printing’ was published by Hanser Verlag in May 2023. 

Interview with Ralf Anderhofstadt

In an interview with 3Druck.com, Ralf Anderhofstadt emphasises that companies need to rethink their approach in order to successfully transition to innovative processes. He explains how such a rethink can succeed and reveals what was a completely new experience even for him as an expert in the field of industrial additive manufacturing.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges that companies face when they want to get into industrial 3D printing?

It really does require a new mindset when turning to industrial 3D printing. The most challenging step for companies, whether SMEs or corporations, is often rethinking: moving away from traditional methods towards innovative processes. This requires courage, because it’s not just about new machines or software, but about a transformation in mindset.

It is an exciting field that requires a high degree of flexibility and willingness to innovate, but the opportunities it opens up are revolutionary and will fundamentally change the way we produce.

How can a rethink be successfully implemented in companies to break out of traditional production cycles?

In order to break out of traditional cycles, it is crucial to take action. The initial step is often the hardest part, but once started, a universe of possibilities opens up. No matter how high the mountain is, without the first step the summit will never be reached. And this is exactly where we come in with the eLearning course ‘Vorsprung durch Innovation’ (English translation: advantage through innovation; the course is currently only available in German), based on my books and the experience I have gained as Head of the Centre of Competence Additive Manufacturing at Daimler Truck | Daimler Buses and as a lecturer and trainer. The course is designed precisely to enable companies to get off to the best possible start in industrial 3D printing and to accompany them from the very beginning through to achieving their first success.

What surprising insights have you gained in recent years in the field of additive manufacturing, even as an expert in this sector?

One of the major unexpected aspects of additive manufacturing is its close integration with other future technologies. 3D printing is not just another production method that is increasingly gaining a foothold in series production; it is a catalyst for digitalisation that enables completely new digital business models. Looking at the entire AM value chain opens up incredible opportunities. In the new course ‚Digitalisierungsdynamik durch 3D-Druck’ (English translation: digitalisation dynamics through 3D printing; the course is currently only available in German), we examine precisely these aspects and show how companies can use these dynamics to their advantage.

If we now take a look into the future, what prospects and opportunities do you see as particularly promising for additive manufacturing?

The prospects and opportunities for additive manufacturing are enormous, particularly in the area of digitalisation, but also sustainability. Through innovative approaches such as virtual data warehouses or digital rights management, we can significantly reduce CO2 and increase efficiency at the same time. These digital 3D printing business models make it possible to replace or supplement material products with data in the course of dematerialisation, which represents a revolutionary change in the way we think and act.

What impact do you think additive manufacturing will have on various industries and possibly on society as a whole over the next ten years?

Within the next ten years, I see additive manufacturing having a transformative impact on almost all industries and on society as a whole. Integration with other technologies such as AI or quantum computing, to name just two examples, will continue to increase. Products that we can barely imagine being 3D printed today will become commonplace. Decentralised 3D printing and the global distribution of printing licences will enable new business models that will achieve high market penetration and profoundly change both the economy and our daily lives. In my book ‘Disruptive 3D Printing’, I talk about the ‘9 D’s’ that show how far-reaching these changes can be.

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