In August 2019, the Röchling Direct Manufacturing Center – abbreviated as RDMC - was established in Waldachtal/Germany. Nowadays the team consists of eight employees and students, that can already offer a broad portfolio of different additive manufacturing technologies. On 500 square meters they manufacture complex components and entire series made of plastic or metal as an in-house service for the whole Röchling Group and its customers.
The core production-team consists of the three application specialists Knut Figaj, David Torres and Eike-Sebastian Birk. All three had already been part of our Röchling family before they started their new task – each in one of the three divisions. Now they’re benefiting from this Röchling expertise in their new jobs. As specialists they’re now responsible for individual additive manufacturing technologies and provide their expert advice to their internal customers. There is a wide range of application possibilities for 3D printing. The Röchling Group has already been able to draw on the creation of parts for wind turbines, sports cars and medical products, as well as tools or parts for machines.
The first steps in the morning are often taken by the three colleagues in the direction of the machines and systems. There they check the print jobs that were running over night, wake other machines from sleep mode and get them ready for the day. Due to the sensibility of the materials and printers, the machines are distributed over three rooms, with the temperature and humidity controlled by air conditioning. The following work day is taken up with processing customer requests, making arrangements with customers, preparing calculations or machine maintenance and equipment. “As a young company within the Röchling Group the entire value-added process is still in our hands,” says Figaj, who has already written his masters thesis in the field of materials development at Röchling Industrial. This means, they are responsible for accepting orders, communicating with the customers, creating print jobs and sending them to the customer.
At the beginning of a print job – so the individual orders are called – there is always a customer inquiry that comes from the three divisions Automotive, Industrial and Medical. In many cases the inquiry refers to a concrete component with existing plans. In this case the RDMC employees check the implementation and manufacturing possibilities using additive manufacturing processes. In consultation with the customer, optimal products are developed and then produced layer by layer in the machines. In other cases, the products are not yet AM (additive manufacturing) compliant and must then be adapted in terms of design in order to generate the desired benefits from the combination of processes and components. “When the customer on the other end of the line says: ‘Wow – that looks really good’, you are really happy,” says Birk.
However, this freedom is also a challenge. The reason: “The better is the enemy of the good,” emphasizes Torres. Therefore, you sometimes have to accept that you better put something to rest. Because the many different parameters that come together in the system, in the software and in the process cannot always be recognized and analysed at once, says Birk. The possibilities that the 3D printing offers are enormous and allow different applications such as injection molding, medical and mechanical engineering and the creation of parts that are nowadays no longer available on the market. Therefore, Figaj states: “Röchling is everywhere – we can feel it here at first hand.”
The activities often require creativity and a willingness to experiment. A characteristic the three colleagues like to apply in their free time. With this, Torres, who was born in Aachen/Germany but grew up in Columbia, still models replicas of art objects from his old home in South America after work. Figaj has also turned his hobby into a profession and is often main contact for friends and acquaintances for the additive design of parts. Birk appreciates the freedom that is available in designing parts, and he always looks forward to creating new parts.