Creative Freedom for Design Engineers

Early this year Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH invested in a 3D laboratory. It now offers its customers a new service known as additive manufacturing. 3D printing techniques can be used to produce a wide range of parts which would require considerable outlay and effort to produce using conventional methods.

Fast alle Formen, auch innen liegende Strukturen, sind dank AM machbar; Aus Werkstoffen in Pulverform entstehen mittels chemischer und/oder physikalischer Prozesse komplexe Bauteile

Fast alle Formen, auch innen liegende Strukturen, sind dank AM machbar; Aus Werkstoffen in Pulverform entstehen mittels chemischer und/oder physikalischer Prozesse komplexe Bauteile

Virtually any shape is feasible

Additive manufacturing (AM) is a new technology which Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH has recently started offering its customers – and demand from the business groups is increasing by the day. The advantage is that virtually any shapes are feasible, including complex internal structures which would be tremendously difficult to produce with standard methods of turning and milling.

"Additive manufacturing sees cost efficiency steadily improve as component geometry becomes more complex," says Hans-Jörg Erhard, who is responsible for the new technology at Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH. "It gives design engineers far more creative freedom."


Having already set up a dedicated lab for the new technology, Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH has now invested in a machine which uses selective laser melting to manufacture components from titanium, stainless steel and aluminum. Virtually all the business groups have now had their first parts produced using the new technique: Consumer Optics ordered a dummy of a camera lens, Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology (SMT) a water distributor for cooling in EUV systems, and Microscopy requested a titanium tube to channel the electron beam of the ZEISS MultiSEM electron microscope.


Community of Practice

As well as manufacturing parts, the new service also includes support and advice on designing components. Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH organizes regular Community of Practice (CoP) sessions to enable the business groups to share ideas and information on the new technology. The CoP now has 150 members from all the business groups. Members present their most recent experiences with the technology, and the CoP also invites guest speakers from other companies and institutes of higher education. "The goal of the CoP is to help ZEISS exploit the full potential of this technology by ensuring close cooperation between the business groups and external experts," says Annerose Eckert, Head of Functional Prototypes at Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH.

Everyone involved in the CoP sees huge potential in this technology, especially for custom-made products. There are virtually no limits to the shapes that can be produced, and the manufacturing process is, on average, 60 percent faster than conventional manufacturing processes. "We want the business group to see us as a valued partner for this technology. That's why we’re keen to support them from an even earlier stage of the process in the future, advising them on the development of parts which we can then produce using additive manufacturing," says Eckert.


Stefan Xalter
Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology (SMT)

I think additive manufacturing offers great potential for the future. The first serial part that SMT had produced using AM was a water distributor for cooling in EUV systems. It would have been too difficult to produce the part using conventional manufacturing processes. AM allowed us to adjust the mass and create a geometry which simply wouldn't have been feasible with conventional methods.

Dr. Jörg Jacobi

Additive manufacturing is ideal for complex geometries. When it came to producing the Y-shaped tube which channels the electron beam in our new MultiSEM microscope, additive manufacturing offered a far faster and more cost-effective solution than any conventional production methods. The biggest challenge right now, however, is how to produce the smooth surface we need inside the tube.

Frank König
Medical Technology

Additive manufacturing is a fast and effective solution for prototype construction. I don't think it's ready to be applied across the board due to the higher costs. But we will definitely be keeping an eye on this new technology, because it's time will come!

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Additive Manufacturing
Additive manufacturing (AM), or rapid prototyping as it was often called in the past, is the generic term used to describe a method employed to produce models, prototypes and end products. The method is performed on the basis of computer data models by fusing the starting material layer by layer using chemical and/or physical processes. In laser melting, for example, a thin layer of the material to be processed is applied in powder form to a base plate. Laser radiation is used to locally fuse the powder together, forming a solid layer of material. The base plate is then lowered by the amount of one layer thickness and more powder is applied. This cycle is repeated until all layers have been fused.