Fives, a Paris-based industrial group recognized mainly as a designer and builder of thermal processing systems and machine tools, formed a venture with The Michelin Group to develop industrial machinery and production centers for metal additive manufacturing technology.
Each investor will hold a 50% stake in Fives Michelin Additive Solutions, with equity contribution of “at least €25 million ($38.5 million) in the first three years.” It will be headquartered near Michelin in Clermont-Ferrand, France, aiming to supply industrial machines worldwide.
The co-investors stated: “Fives Michelin Additive Solutions will offer industrialists different areas of application (such as automotive, aerospace, health, etc.), a complete solution from the design and manufacture of machines and complete production lines to the related services (redesign of parts, definition of the manufacturing process, installation, production support, training, etc.)”
The particular additive manufacturing technology (or technologies) that the venture will promote remains unknown, but it is based on development work done by Michelin over several years. The partners stated they aim “to build on the complementary expertise of the two groups to become a world leader in the segment of industrial solutions for mass production.”
Michelin reportedly has been developing metal additive manufacturing methods in order to produce mold parts that cannot be produce by traditional means (machining, welding, etc.) “This technology now makes it possible to develop and market truck and car tires with exceptional performances,” according to the partners’ announcement.
Fives’ expertise presumably would be its machine design and construction capabilities, as well as its marketing and distribution network, and its presence in thousands of currently operating manufacturing plants and machine shops.
Metal 3DP is only one aspect of the burgeoning additive manufacturing sector, and is primarily based on selective laser-sintering technology converting powder metal alloys into produce complex parts. A handful already operate in the sector (e.g., Concept Laser, EOS, ExOne Co., and 3D Systems, among others), though there is no clear standard, perhaps because the market for manufacturing 3D-printed parts on an industrial scale has not been defined clearly.
Even so, Fives and Michelin see growth for metal 3DP among OEMs and accessory suppliers, specifically citing aircraft manufacturers. They referenced the Wohlers Report in defining a €600-million ($923 million) market for metal additive manufacturing in 2014, with an average annual growth of over 20%. They also noted more than 500 machines were sold worldwide last year.