Additive Manufacturing technology supplier Concept Laser, based in Lichtenfels, Germany, states that 3D technologies are electrifying the global markets with continuous growth reports. The company believes that Additive Manufacturing (AM) has now become a strategic industrial production strategy, citing predictions of up to 400% growth for AM technologies within the next five years.
Prognoses like these, stated the company, are forcing the main players in the market to step up their technological and capacity efforts. Concept Laser, as an owner-operated medium sized business, is relying on organic growth. “We invest nearly 10% of our sales revenue directly in research and development,” stated Frank Herzog, President and CEO. “The conservative and long-term mindset of small and medium-sized businesses offers, in my view, the ideal basis for fully realising our strengths in the market.”
Concept Laser believes that its efforts in 2014 have clearly paid off, as the company was voted one of Bavaria’s Best 50 firms by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs for its innovative capacity, as well as its entrepreneurial philosophies and practices. The company was also a finalist for the 2014 German Innovation Award for co-developing the first additively manufactured titanium component on board the Airbus A350 XWB.
The fast-growing acceptance of Additive Manufacturing in the market and the attractiveness of laser melting systems from the Lichtenfels-based manufacturer are reflected in above-average growth figures. The company states that it received 110 new machine orders in 2014 versus 84 in 2013, a 31% increase. With sales growth in recent years averaging 40-50% annually, sales in 2014 were up 75% from the previous year, driven primarily by large-system sales in the 1000W laser class. The number of employees had also increased as of the end of the 2014 to 103, 30% more than the previous year.
According to Herzog, 2014 was the most successful year in the now fifteen year history of Concept Laser. “In our competitive environment, we not only kept pace with the rapid growth in the market, we even exceeded it. This was the result of our R&D efforts and continuous product expansion. Today, 160 employees in the group are involved in the LaserCUSING process. At Concept Laser alone, 40 of our 103 staff members work in research and development.”
Key focus areas include series adaptation of multi-laser technology for increased building speed, as well as pioneering work in the area of real-time monitoring for quality assurance, known as QMmeltpool 3D. Multi-laser technology has a direct impact on exposure times, for instance. Empirical values show an increase in build rates of up to 80%. For 2015, Concept Laser has announced an X line 2000R, which will feature two 1000-watt lasers and variable optics.
The company’s infrastructure at its headquarters in Lichtenfels was also expanded in 2014 to meet demand, including a new 3,500 m2 production hall, which is nearing completion and will increase machine output by a factor of 2.5. Separate inspection chambers for confidential customer projects and improved delivery times are important considerations for customers. A new, 600 m2 state-of-the-art process development and material research centre was also launched in 2014. Last but not least, to meet the enormous demand from the aerospace industry in the US, Concept Laser Inc., with headquarters in Dallas, Texas, was founded in the summer of 2014.
Outlook for 2015
2015 marks the fifteenth anniversary of Concept Laser. Based on extremely solid sales figures and the more than favourable prognosis for Additive Manufacturing, Concept Laser has announced midterm plans to continuously expand its capacity and develop ambitious new products.
The R&D department is working on various projects for LaserCUSING with a focus on increased productivity and effective 3D process monitoring, material qualification and automation. The Benchmark division was also greatly expanded at the beginning of 2015. As a “reference workshop,” Benchmark plays an important service role for customers. In addition to adding more space, the division has increased its capacity to ten machines.
The high demand of recent years has also required changes in logistics, including a new 1,200 m2 logistics centre which is slated for operation in Q1 2015. The company will also soon break ground on a new administrative building. The international sales network is slated for further expansion. Concept Laser Inc., headquartered in Dallas, Texas, will add new service staff and will soon occupy a new building with its own showroom.
China continues to be one of the fastest-growing sales markets for LaserCUSING. Currently there are concrete plans to increase the company’s presence with more staff and infrastructure. Herzog concluded, “I believe we are optimally positioned at all levels to be just as successful and innovative in the future as in the past.”