Centre of Excellence for 3D Manufacturing
3D printing, scanning, laser cutting tand more – digital manufacturing technologies are widely considered to be a prelude to the next industrial revolution. To prepare students for the future of manufacturing and cement these technologies as integral parts of the region, three Lower Rhine universities – Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences, Ruhr-West University of Applied Sciences and RWTH Aachen University – have joined together in an ambitious project based on the ‘FabLab’, a pioneering concept developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that is rapidly taking hold around the world.
FabLabs, short for ‘fabrication laboratories’, are high-tech workshops that not only promote and spread innovative manufacturing technologies, but also make DIY manufacturing accessible for both individuals and communities. The FabLabs themselves are only the first step in the project. The next step is the establishment of the 3D-Kompetenzzentrum Niederrhein, a central hub for encouraging and coordinating the initiatives and production capabilities of the individual participating FabLabs.
Central project aims include anchoring digital manufacturing firmly in the curricula of project partners’ degree programmes and participating in the Fab Academy beginning in January 2017. Fab Academy is a virtual training programme based on 3D manufacturing technologies. It features participants from over 30 countries, a virtual campus for exchanging ideas and projects, and lectures by renowned MIT researcher Professor Neil Gershenfeld, which are streamed from the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms into the project partners’ Fablabs. The 3D-Kompetenzzentrum Niederrhein will be the first of its kind in Germany to offer students the chance to participate in the Fab Academy. Participating students will work closely with professors in their respective FabLabs to plan, develop and implement project ideas, then present the results to other participating institutions for detailed discussions and reflection.
The 3D-Kompetenzzentrum Niederrhein will also feature an series of events designed to not only introduce digital fabrication technologies to new audiences, but also present cutting-edge developments in the field and discuss their current and future relevance for business and society. Events will range from operational training workshops conducted together with industry partners – chambers of industry and commerce, chambers of trade, medical and architectural associations – to ‘Fab Talks’, open presentations of interregional importance given by experts in the international FabLab network. Other responsibilities of the 3D-Kompetenzzentrum Niederrhein include forging new contacts with the private sector and developing training opportunities for both industry and trades, as well as connecting with local schools and developing new teaching materials and continuing education concepts.
New methods and processes developed as a result of the project are meant to be readily and easily transferrable to practice – an early demand placed on the project during the conception stage. Garrelt Duin, NRW Minister for Economic Affairs, stressed that the practical importance of these efforts: “These projects contribute their part to improving the flow of knowledge and information between research and industry, which strengthens regional companies’ innovative potential.”
The official grant notification letter is formally presented to project partners in a ceremony at the Ministry for Economic Affairs NRW.
f.l.t.r..: Professor Schäfer (Ruhr-West), Dr Jens Stuhldreier (Ministry of Labour, Integration and Social Affairs NRW), Minister Garrelt Duin (Ministry of Economic Affairs, Energy, Industry, SMEs and Trades NRW), Dr Heide Naderer (Rhine-Waal University of Applied sciences), Dr Martin Kreymann (Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences), Professor Jan Borchers (RWTH Aachen University)
OP EFRE NRW – the operational programme of North Rhine-Westphalia to promote investments in growth and employment via the European Funds for Regional Development (EFRE) – is currently the most important structural-political economic programme in North Rhine-Westphalia. The Land government of North Rhine-Westphalia is committed to investing 3.7 million euros into the project from August 2016 to September 2019, with 3.3 million euros originating from EFRE 2014-2020 development funds.