Founded in 1802, Georg Fischer is the preferred partner of its customers for the safe transaport of liquids and gases, lightweight casting components, and high-precision manufacturing technologies. In an engaging conversation with Manufacturing Technology Insights, Guy J. Ofek, Head of Additive Manufacturing Business Development Asia at GF Machining Solutions discusses the potential of additive manufacturing and the difference they bring to the table by delivering something unconventional to its customers.
What was your journey like to get where you are?
My career kick-started with Solido in 2007. The company was using Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM) based technology and offered this technology at a relatively low entry point, as they were focusing on selling it to academic institutions. Three years later, I joined Objet Geometries (‘Objet’) as a Territory Manager of Southeast Asia, and in 2012, Objet merged with a company called Stratasys, as a result of which I was given additional responsibility as the Global Account Manager (GAM) for APAC, in addition to my primary role of Territory Management. As the GAM manager, my mandate included working with some 80 of our largest customers (well-established MNCs), in an effort to grow the adoption of our technologies (Fused Deposition Modeling & Polyjet), increase material consumption and support their 3D Printing needs in every way. During this time my responsibility was to work with these mega-brands across Asia and the Pacific. Later on, following my relocation to Korea, I assumed the leadership over Stratasys strategic accounts in Korea and Japan. These accounts included the likes of Samsung, Panasonic, Toyota Manufacturing, Sony, Brother, and others, and the idea was to work with these giants in an effort to implement additive manufacturing in their production environment. My journey with Stratasys came to an end in the year 2015, and I shifted to Mcor Technologies, where I was in charge of the company’s expansion in Asia, with a definite focus on growing their business in China, Taiwan, and Japan. Moving forward, the beginning of 2018 marked the end of my journey with Mcor Technologies, and I switched to GF Machining Solutions, a division of Georg Fischer AG.
What kind of strategies do you develop for the organization?
Georg Fischer is a diversified Swiss company having three primary divisions, namely GF Casting Solutions, GF Piping Systems, and GF Machining Solutions, and I am associated with GF Machining Solutions. We started our journey with technologies like Electrical Discharge Machines (‘EDM’) and Milling machines. The company then bought leading brands called Agie, Charmilles and Mikron and from there on, the company- through acquisitions - evolved to own several other well-known brands, dealing with Laser Texturing, Micro-machining, Automation, Spindles and Industry 4.0 solutions. As we are best known for our accuracy and demanding applications, our customers use our machines to fulfill their needs of high-end surface finish, and high accuracy and tolerances. Different divisions of Georg Fischer came to learn and experience Additive Manufacturing in their own special way, for example our sister division GF Casting Solutions (previously known as GF Automotive) realized that in the next decade or two, many of the casted parts it made for its Aerospace customers, will be replaced by lighter and better performing parts made using Additive Manufacturing technologies.
GF Machining Solutions, on the other hand, observed Additive as another technology to be integrated into the production workflow. We quickly understood that Additive is shifting from prototyping into production and is thus moving more and more into shop floors. Being a well-established brand on these shop floors, we expected this unique technology to become yet another if you like, complementing solutions, which we should, therefore, offer our customers. GF Machining Solutions is known for precision engineering and industrial automation solutions, and as such, we supply fully automated production lines, inclusive of milling machines and electrical discharge machines, which are tended by robots on slide bases. As our solutions are used for production of parts 24/7, we envisioned Additive Manufacturing could one day become the last link in the chain, and we are working to develop such integrated processes to help our customers make the transition into full-fledged production using metal Additive technology.
Besides, gathering all our know-how from traditional (subtractive) manufacturing and from various casting processes, we also, bring together our process integration and automation expertise under a brand called System3R. We believe that bringing all these building blocks and placing them together make a rather unique and compelling value proposition in the Additive Manufacturing landscape. Together with our strategic partner 3D Systems, we want to deliver something unconventional to our customers and would like to become the `go-to company` for those looking for end-to-end fully integrated production solution using metal Additive Manufacturing technology. It is with this mindset and vision to change the Additive Manufacturing landscape and deliver new kinds of solutions to the market, we have partnered with 3D Systems last year, which share the same vision.
Are there any newer innovations or techniques of Additive Manufacturing that you would like to share?
To begin with, we are on the eve of FormNext, the leading European exhibition in terms of Additive Manufacturing, where all the players in the industry gather to showcase their latest innovations. We will be participating with our strategic partner 3D Systems to introduce our co-branded solution to the market, with the focus to deliver the key message that the newly established partnership between GF machining solutions and 3D Systems are in tandem because we feel that the market is not consistent. We came together to provide a better future for this industry. We will be presenting machines that are manufactured by us and also showcase amazing technologies developed by our business partners. We are also trying to spread awareness that if customers want to manufacture with the help of additive manufacturing, then the total cost of ownership, efficiency, lead time, and productivity is essential and should be taken into consideration. Additive alone should not be the consideration, as multiple technologies come into play to enhance the entire process.
Is there any advice to people who are looking to set foot in your line of career?
I believe that when it comes to advising people, the Additive Industry has a good number of experts with in-depth knowledge of the domain, far greater than mine. But, according to my understanding, I would state that the industry is currently growing in two opposite sides. It’s no longer about the novelty or the ability to generate something out of nothing; instead, it’s more about the software, the design for additive, the pre-printing stage, and in general making sure you have a successful print job. Currently, the process is comprised of multiple software solutions that when put together are supposed to somehow help the user make his way from Art to Part, all the while addressing his needs for support creation, lattice structures, defining the build strategy and so on. GF Machining Solutions and 3D Systems are looking to simplify the process by empowering the designer and additive users by way of allowing them to do all of the above and much more in a single – hybrid CAD – software environment. It’s unique because one single platform makes it easy for customers to keep their CAD files in its native CAD format without converting it into any other format, thereby risking loss of data. One can work on his or her file in a familiar history-based environment, do all the prep work, and when finished simply send the file to print. How cool is that!
This is one side of the equation, yet the other side is post-processing. Today customers understand that it’s not about the ability of the printer; instead, it’s the combination of printer and ancillary equipment, in particular when we talk about metal additive, where users most often than not, have to use milling machines to better the surface finish or remove support and have to use EDMs or band-saws to separate the parts from the build plates.