By Andreas Weber, Head of Value | (German Version)
- #IAA2017 as a serious playing field for innovative Print 4.0 applications with a combination of tablet app, augmented reality, and 4D printing.
- The Daimler Group breaking new ground with a pioneering project for smart.
- Heidelberg positioned as an important technology partner for the automotive industry.
- Car buyers set to be able to custom design certain elements of their car in the future.
- CONCLUSION: First we had ‘car2go’, now we have ‘print2go’, in other words: a new dimension is being added to print, both functionally and structurally.
It was immediately clear to anyone entering the convention hall decorated by Daimler AG at the IAA 2017 international motor show in Frankfurt am Main: the digital revolution has now also fully gripped the traditional brands in car manufacturing. Huge screens showed in real time the abundance of tweets and video messages pouring in every second. The hot topic ‘Mobility of the future’ kicked off with Daimler’s ‘car2go’ – an extensive car-sharing service based around vehicles provided by Daimler (preferably the smart fortwo model series).
And the future is already taking place on Level 1 in the FabLab, where the ‘Volocopter’ prototype is showcasing new forms of mobility, which will unfold in the air. ‘Future Mobility’ is explained as follows: “Our digital transformation is in full swing”, confides Daimler. “On the brink of a new age in mobility, we are going beyond our previous understanding of mobility in our experiments and ideas, and are looking for new forms of manufacturing and methods of cooperation.” The objective is to explore the start-up spirit that Daimler has been driving since the invention of the automobile in 1886.
Also presented were 3D printers, which are used in manufacturing. And a real world premiere under the heading “unleash the colour”: with a combination of a configurator app for tablets, augmented reality using 3D glasses, and 4D printing with Heidelberg Omnifire (for printing all kinds of three-dimensional objects), for the first time the car buyer is offered the opportunity to design and individualize certain trim components in the smart themselves and have them printed in real time. It should then be possible to install the parts in the already individually configurable vehicle. First we had ‘car2go’, now we have ‘print2go’, in other words: a new dimension is being added to print, both functionally and structurally.
‘print2go’ is opening up a new dimension for print
“It is unique and pioneering that we as a print technology company are able to enter into a future-oriented partnership with a car-making giant like Daimler in order to ultimately reinforce differentiating factors and above all customer orientation/loyalty,” says Montserrat Peidro-Insa, who as Senior Vice President Digital at Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG is driving the digital transformation of the global print industry. The 4D printing technology perfected by Heidelberg more than three years ago offers the perfect basis for this.
Dr. Thomas Sommer-Dittrich, who is responsible for development work for the pioneer project at Daimler, for his part emphasized the strategic important of the research project, which was intentionally presented in an early stage at IAA 2017. This is because the application is based on a process that is digitized from beginning to end, but is to be put to the acid test in dialog with visitors to the motor show and experts in terms of its readiness for the market. The motto for the specific presentation is “unleash the colour — custom trims using an innovative printing process”, and it focuses on the benefit for the customer.
Daimler made the following announcement: “smart fans are creative and love variety. Even now there are barely two smarts that look exactly alike. With unleash the colour, smart offers a look at further ways of individualizing a smart. For example, at IAA 2017 smart demonstrates how digitization and new printing technologies enable individual small series or individual parts to be quickly and easily realized for the interior.”
The entire process is digitized – from the first design draft to the finished individual trim part, as the Daimler developer Martina Gayduschek competently and clearly demonstrated at IAA 2017. This is how it works: First, customers can design selected trim components for the interior (ventilation nozzles, instrument bezels, and multi-media interface trim) with their own motifs in a configurator app on the tablet. The overall design can be immediately viewed on the tablet and using 3D glasses in virtual reality (VR) to see how the design they have chosen themselves will fit into the car ambiance. Then the design is optimized for printing and printed in color as well as with tactile effects on the surfaces of the real components. The car buyer can then choose between two levels of individualization:
- choose provides ideas for quick individualization with various design suggestions which can be viewed realistically on a tablet and with VR glasses in the virtual vehicle.
- create takes personalization a step further: visitors can photograph a motif of their choice with the camera of the tablet. The configurator transfers the motif virtually to the trim components and visualizes it in real time as virtual reality. This enables the visitor to experience the trim components personalized with their motif in the car with the help of a tablet and VR glasses.
The Omnifire 250 digital printing system from Heidelberg was positioned right next to the smart stand in the Mercedes FabLab at the motor show, so that the visitors could see the trim components being printed live and find out about the innovative printing process and the technology behind it. The result was presented to the public in a deliberate way at the smart stand in hall 2, with visitors able to try out the application in a smart using 3D glasses, watch a video on it, and touch prototypes.
All in all, a very concrete experiment that was very well received by the public and thus weathered the acid test. How long more it will take until this is used in practice will be decided by the responsible business divisions at smart after IAA 2017. However, the first test markets for small pilot series have already been defined. What we now need is ‘mobility’ of thought and action in order to integrate technological innovations into the complex processes involved in car manufacturing and marketing.
“The possibilities of 4D printing are phenomenal.”
Statement by Peter Wilhelm Borbet at #IAA2017 (in german).
There were also ‘print2go’ applications using Heidelberg-Omnifire technology in other areas. Visitors to wheel specialist Borbet’s stand were able to compare the results with those of conventional pad printing and laser printing. “The Heidelberg technology offers clear advantages when it comes to color reproduction, imaging quality, and productivity,” says owner Peter Wilhelm Borbet. He feels that the future in his specialized and quality-focused business also very clearly lies in fulfilling individual customer wishes. That is why he started exploring the possibilities early on and investigating how mass customization could be integrated into the mass production of wheels with ‘print2go’.
A press release from Borbet for IAA 2017 dated 15 September 2017 stated the following: ”Pad printing, laser technology, and Omnifire 1000 digital printing are ExaPeel processes that leave nothing to be desired in the area of personalization. They enable motifs to be transferred to alloy wheels in order to produce a very personal unique piece. Pad printing and laser technology are ready for series production, Omnifire 1000 digital printing is currently in the test phase in our company. All three processes are durable and colorfast. But the Heidelberg digital printing system in particular really shines when it comes to color variation, because it can handle even complex color gradients with ease. Pad printing offers impressively fast implementation and the laser process can also be used for true-to-template visualization of lettering, embellishments, logos, and the most delicate patterns.” Conclusion: Borbet continues to evolve towards digital printing systems in order to stay one step ahead of its customers’ wishes by providing two things – quality and individualization.
Statement by Thomas Wittmann, Ritz Lackiertechnik at #IAA2017 (in german)
IAA 2017 also provided an opportunity to meet innovative service providers that have already been working on the individualization of components in the automotive sector for some time now. Thomas Wittmann, Sales Manager at Ritzi Lackiertechnik, was on site and explained how the company has already been printing certain plastic parts for vehicles in large quantities for over two years, both for car manufacturers and for individual car buyers. He talked about a customer who wanted to have his panoramic photo of New York from the Empire State Building on the trims in the interior of his vehicle. This was no problem with digital printing. Tests are currently underway for a major manufacturer on how to use the Omnifire technology to manufacture the bezels for speedometers for special series of a cult vehicle in a sophisticated way. “For us, getting to grips with digital printing and specifically 4D printing from Heidelberg is strategically extremely important because we want to develop new application possibilities that will move our ranges of services along,” said Wittmann.
Conclusion: As well as quality, high productivity, maximum flexibility, and cost-effectiveness are crucial for Wittmann. Unlike with classic painting technology, motifs can be switched in inkjet digital printing without having to change the tools. And all in real time.
My summary: The times are changing!
IAA 2017 marked a completely new dimension for the medium of printing. We know from the past how digital printing can be used to produce advertising materials for the exhibitors at the motor show. This was therefore a linear transformation of the existing process. With “unleash the colour” by Daimler, we can now see how an exponential transformation can take place. Heidelberg is presenting itself here as a fresh company whose technologies can be integrated into any digitized manufacturing process. Real print innovations in the form of ‘print2go’ (a term that I would like to coin at this point!) are becoming immediate and the direct contact produces added value for the car fan and buyer, integrated into state-of-the-art digital scenarios via a tablet and augmented reality in combination with 4D printing.
The end customer/buyer takes the lead in designing their vehicle and initiates the printing process immediately. More was achieved with this for print than at the same time in Chicago at the leading US trade fair Print17, where, as usual in the industry, the exhibitors’ focus was on explaining and showing (so-called) innovative technologies that have been used for centuries to reproduce content. IAA 2017 now marks the milestone for the transformation of printing and transformation using printing. And ‘incidentally‘, the thesis expressed by Marc Pritchard, CMO of the biggest advertiser in the world, Procter & Gamble, at the concurrently running DEMXCO in Cologne, was brought to life at the highest level: “We are in the process of completing the first stage of the digital media transformation. The next disruption – digital 1-to-1-communication – is around the corner.” — Oops, print is demonstrably one step ahead here. ‘print2go’ has already rounded the corner. And done so in the premium segment ‘Automotive’. The question is: Will even more be possible here in the future?
Heidelberg’s great Omnifire video on Youtube