Embarking on an Additive Manufacturing journey with Ericsson

Additive Manufacturing (AM) technologies provide a number of benefits to industries compared to conventional manufacturing techniques. From solving complex manufacturing challenges by using freedom of design, to solving complex real-life situations, AM – or industrial 3D printing – is not only innovative manufacturing technologies, but also a potentially sustainable manufacturing choice. Therefore, more and more industries and companies are advancing their use of AM, exploring the possibilities even further. Ericsson stands as a good example, pursuing advancements in additive manufacturing technologies and recently joining the AMEXCI group. In this article, we would like to share with you the story of Ericsson, their growing interest in Additive Manufacturing, and how this technology will bring value in telecommunications.

Ericsson – introducing AM to telecommunications

Ericsson, a leading provider of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to service providers, has the purpose to create connections that make the unimaginable possible. In other words, the mobile networks provided by Ericsson offer people, businesses, and our wider world possibilities that the company is helping bring to life. These networks Ericsson built connected people initially. However, now they will be able to connect more things. Having such a critical role in our society, Ericsson is proactively leading and orchestrating ecosystems – bringing together organizations and ideas that help create the standards for connectivity; nurturing the innovation environments that have kindled and proven many of the technologies that we take for granted today; or driving global partnerships that scale the reach and impact of technology for good.

Ericsson Headquarters in Stockholm

Ericsson’s vision imagines a world where limitless connectivity improves lives, redefines business and pioneers a sustainable future. As part of this, Ericsson launched a series of future scenarios it believes will emerge in an era of hyper connectivity – enabling new ways of learning, redefining business, reimagining entertainment, and tackling the climate crisis.

Additive Manufacturing is one of the means that could provide Ericsson the support in achieving their mission and pursue their vision. Additive Manufacturing, also known as industrial 3D printing, is a collective name for manufacturing technologies where parts are built layer upon layer using 3D model data as input. Additive Manufacturing is being used by several industries across various industry sectors since materials, machines. and software programmes have reached a level where parts can be produced with high repeatability and acceptable cost per part while at the same time offering competitive advantages such as lower lead times, design freedom, and higher performance. Thus, with the support of AM, Ericsson is able to pursue its role as an orchestrator of ecosystems, redefining production scenarios, while tackling the climate crisis. 

 

Additive Manufacturing at Ericsson – opening doors for development

Numerous industries benefit from AM, realizing different applications. Therefore, Ericsson sees AM as a potential tool in their production and sustainability plan. Mikael Wahlén, Program Manager at Business Area Networks, section Development Unit Networks, Standards and Technology, (S&T) at Ericsson, sees AM as a means to achieve Ericsson’s mission and vision. Wahlén is leading the AM research program as well as other radio-related research activities on antenna, filter and building practice solutions for HW Research at S&T.

“With AM there are new opportunities for design solutions that are not possible with the Industry 3.0 tools and systems,” Wahlén says. “We will focus on governing sustainability in everything we do which, with the introduction of Industry 4.0, will make an important difference. By including additive manufacturing in our manufacturing technologies, increasing efficiency in the supply chain as well as sourcing categories, smart manufacturing may play a key role in the future. This will of course take time and effort but we need to start learning how we could utilize it for our future product portfolio.”

“We are pleased that we can embark on this journey together with Ericsson and side by side explore how we can apply AM in the best possible way in telecommunications. In the same line with Mikael Wahlén’s thoughts on AM, we, too, believe these technologies will make a significant difference in the future, by continuing to solve complex production challenges and support the environment,” Edvin Resebo, CEO at AMEXCI, says.   

AMEXCI facilities in Karlskoga, Sweden

“First of all, possibilities of sustainability and climate action through energy reduction. To increase our efforts for much better climate control in our product design and manufacturing process since we can decrease lead time, energy consumption, and increase the value of our solutions in several aspects of the product lifecycle. From a technology perspective, new, innovative design solutions can increase market value as we are able to design lighter and stronger components as well as design solutions only possible with AM techniques,” Wahlén says.

Additive Manufacturing – expanding new horizons for Ericsson

Ericsson has been using 3D printers for many years, mainly for rapid prototyping and mockup demonstrations. But Ericsson has also used 3D printed fixtures for different purposes in manufacturing processes.  In 2019, the company set up AM as an R&D area at its Networks business as part of strategies and ways of working. The company is rapidly taking up speed in learning and the interest is increasing. Therefore, in collaboration with AMEXCI and the other shareholding companies, Ericsson sees the benefits of joint efforts in exploring how the AM industry can advance in  research and all technical aspects for possible volume production, while at the same time enhancing learning and understanding of these topics. In the end, collaboration is the key to success.

Furthermore, Additive Manufacturing is not only a modern production method for Ericsson, but it will also bring a much bigger, overarching development to both the company and society in general. Wahlén says: “It is of significant importance in the sense that our sustainability efforts will yield expected results, but also pave the way for innovative design solutions for smart manufacturing in the Industry 4.0 implementation.”

Together – an outlook for the future

It is very exciting to see the different ways Additive Manufacturing can support the telecommunications industry and Ericsson, as well as diverse use cases of this technology within the company and how our common sustainability efforts will be impacted by the shift towards Industry 4.0. This is only the first step in a long journey that we will take together with Ericsson in order to discover the numerous ways we can use AM, and create benefits not only to our society, but to our environment as well.  Mikael Wahlén expects that in the coming years, Ericsson will have an increased number of engineers for AM-specialized design, while at the same time have a clear vision of how AM techniques should be managed in all aspects of its research and product design including the product lifecycle aspect. “Whatever is feasible to be 3D printed – should be 3D printed,” he says.

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