“It’s the responsibility of the AM community to open up.” – Materialise CTO Bart van der Schueren on CO-AM & the duty of companies to learn from one another

On the second day of Formnext 2022, Materialise announced that seven additional technology partners had joined the CO-AM platform. CTO and EVP of Materialise Bart van der Schueren spoke to TCT about the platform, what the new partners will bring, and how additive manufacturing companies have a responsibility to learn from each other.

The seven new partners to the CO-AM platform are Trinckle, Twikit, Additive Marking, SLM Solutions, AMT, DyeMansion, and PostProcess

CO-AM allows users of additive manufacturing to access a range of software tools from Materialise and third parties. The tools allow AM operations to be planned, managed and optimised. When the platform was announced, Materialise said that the platform will help manufacturers address the ‘untapped potential’ of AM for serial manufacturing and mass personalisation.

van der Schueren told TCT at the Materialise booth: “Materialise is really opening up our ecosystem for third parties. We recognise that we are able to not develop every single step. If we would be able to do that we would not have the time because this industry is needing solutions today. Not tomorrow, not next year. That’s why we opened up CO-AM by design, so the whole architecture of the system is an open system with API’s and allows us to have partners that log on to the CO-AM platform.”

Speaking about the responsibility that AM companies have to learn from one another, van der Schueren added: “I do think that this is an important responsibility. You cannot see each component independent from each other. If that would have been the case, you could say, ‘well maybe it’s okay to everybody, everybody does its own little thing.’ But the reality is that this is not the case. It is the responsibility of the AM community to open up and to exchange data.”

The CTO added: “With CO-AM, we offer a platform where companies can work together, or the end user can choose the right components for them, put it together, and work together.”

One of the aims of Materialise is for the CO-AM community to co-develop end-to-end manufacturing solutions that create competitive advantages for individual companies and empower entire industries according to the company.

van der Schueren added: “You can’t have a linear end to end solution. There must be a learning circle, you plan certain things and planning can be looking for, or applying certain scan parameters or build parameters. So that’s the planning part, then you produce your plan then do quality control. And then in the old paradigm, you would say, ‘then you act.’ We say, ‘well, you better learn,’ because in each of these three steps, there is a lot of digital data available. “

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Speaking more broadly about AM as a whole, van der Schueren said that additive manufacturing needs to become more sustainable. Sustainability is a topic that was discussed in a panel session at TCT 3Sixty earlier this year, which you can listen to on the TCT Additive Insight podcast here.

van der Schueren said: “There are, I think, often two extremes. You will have people who claim additive manufacturing is a green technology, and you will have people who say additive manufacturing is not a green technology. I think that the reality is somewhere in the middle. Additive manufacturing is not, by default, a green technology, because if you think about the amount of energy that goes into the production of materials, there is a lot going into it. Because of the carbon emissions going into the production of raw materials, by default the technology is not green.”

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