• AMBER: Networking cutting-edge research and industry

The “Additive Manufacturing Berlin Brandenburg” (AMBER) cluster aims to network universities, colleges and research institutions in Brain City Berlin more closely with companies and thereby accelerate the transfer of results from cutting-edge research into internationally competitive innovations. The overall goal of AMBER: to make Berlin the capital of 3D printing.

Artificial heart valves, ultra-light aircraft parts, complex functional components for machines: 3D printing opens up completely new possibilities for the interaction between research and companies. In additive manufacturing (AM), materials are not cut or milled, rather they are built up layer by layer under computer control. This offers flexibility, increased resilience and enables a more sustainable use of materials in production. Ideal, for example, for the production of prototypes, urgently needed spare parts or series production in small quantities.

Brain City Berlin offers the best conditions for becoming the capital of additive manufacturing – and thus play a leading role in a future-oriented field. “A special feature of the Berlin ecosystem is the broad range of content. In Berlin, we cover the entire value chain in the field of additive manufacturing. From material production in the metal and plastics sector to plant manufacturing and software companies that deal with digitalisation in 3D printing,” explains Hendrik Riemer, Manager Industrial Production at Berlin Partner for Business and Technology and coordinator of the newly founded Additive Manufacturing Berlin Brandenburg (AMBER) cluster. “There are also numerous service providers that offer 3D printing as a service and, of course, a growing number of companies that use 3D printing. The diverse industrial base in the region ranges from the automotive industry to medical technology and aerospace.”

Knowledge transfer is a major plus for the region

AMBER was launched in 2019 as a joint initiative of regional research sub-projects. Initially, the cluster was coordinated by the Technische Universität Berlin: The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), however, rejected funding at the very last stage. However, Berlin Partner lobbied the Berlin Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises for alternative funding for AM topics from State funds (Innovation Promotion Fund). And with success: At the beginning of 2022, the coordination of the AMBER initiative was transferred to Berlin Partner. AMBER receives additional support from the Masterplan Industrial City Berlin 2022-2026 (MPI). This is because the Senate is funding AM in industry with more than 14 million euros as part of the MPI.

The aim of AMBER is to develop Berlin into the top address for new production technologies in Europe by 2030. The rapid transfer of research findings into sustainable, internationally competitive innovations plays a central role here – as it is also a major asset of the capital region. “The large number of research institutes and universities in Berlin enables close collaboration between different subject areas such as mechanical engineering, aerospace, materials science, computer science, medical technology and design. Cutting-edge research in areas such as biotechnology, materials science and Artificial Intelligence is helping to develop new materials, processes and applications for additive manufacturing. This expands the innovation potential and accelerates technological breakthroughs in 3D printing,” explains Hendrik Riemer. The majority of Berlin’s 3D printing companies are also spin-offs that have developed from cutting-edge research. “These startups are driving the development of new applications and business models and are creating a vibrant culture of innovation that is typical of Berlin.” The AM ecosystem in the capital region is also strengthened by initiatives such as the Werner-von-Siemens Centre for Industry and Science at the future location Siemensstadt Square and the largest international 3D printing network “Mobility goes Additive” (MGA).

Hendrk Riemer, coordinator of the Additive Manufacturing Berlin Brandenburg (AMBER) cluster. © Berlin Partner

Create transparency and build synergies

The AMBER initiative aims to make this huge potential visible. By bringing transparency to the regional AM market, pooling expertise, representing the Berlin AM ecosystem at home and abroad and leveraging synergies. “AMBER is also synonymous with the AM cluster in the capital region. Through close cooperation with universities, research institutions and companies in Berlin and Brandenburg, targeted support for funding programs and networking of potential partners, innovative projects are initiated and the development of new technologies and business models is accelerated,” says Hendrik Riemer.

The strategic basis for the work of AMBER is a benchmark study (German only) commissioned in spring 2023. The aim was to determine the positioning of the capital region in the field of additive manufacturing in a European comparison. The study confirms that the capital region already plays an outstanding role in 3D printing. At the same time, it shows further potential that serves as an important guide for AMBER: Despite good conditions, this also includes strengthening research transfer to industry. “In the field of additive manufacturing, the transfer of the various technologies to industry is currently the greatest challenge,” says Hendrik Riemer. “It is no secret that there are already a number of very innovative technologies, all of which have their place. However, the industry has often not yet fully grasped their potential. Many companies are not yet fully aware of the specific possibilities and advantages of the processes.” This is where AMBER wants to come in, educate and highlight the diversity as well as the advantages and disadvantages of additive manufacturing for individual fields of application.

Creating beacons for the 3D capital Berlin

One of the first steps in this direction was the “AMBER funding call”, which was launched in 2022 by the Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises in cooperation with Investitionsbank Berlin. This resulted in 13 innovation projects with a total of 29 partners involved from the fields of “Personalised Medical Technology”, “Construction and Lightweight Construction”, “Additive Manufacturing with Bio-Based Materials” and “Additive Manufacturing in/for Space”. The project volume was around 20 million euros. The funding call has now been closed, but AMBER continues to support the participating universities, research institutions and companies in applying for new research projects. Riemer says: “Our aim is to use the content and results of the research projects as beacons and to promote Berlin as a 3D printing capital.”

Targeted exchange with like-minded people

Another cornerstone of AMBER is networking. “We regularly organise events, network meetings and workshops and take part in conferences to promote the exchange of knowledge and share best practices,” says Hendrik Riemer. “These platforms offer participants the opportunity to learn about the latest trends and developments in the field of 3D printing and to exchange ideas with experts and like-minded people.”

For example, the “AMBER Spotlight” event series examines additive manufacturing in various technological and application-relevant areas. The target groups are both experts and industry newcomers. There are also plans to organise “Tech Tours”, which will focus on different fields of technology and applications for 3D printing in the capital region. AMBER also operates worldwide. Members of the community can participate together in international trade fairs and conferences, including the “AM Forum Berlin”, “Formnext”, the “CDFAM” symposium series and the “AM Strategies” conference in New York. In addition, AMBER offers annual delegation trips with the “Tech Journeys”. Hendrik Riemer: “The destinations addressed are regions that also focus on additive manufacturing as a key topic and offer participants high added value for internationalisation.” The last two delegation trips were to Israel and to the east coast of America – to New York and Boston. (vdo)

South Africa is the Tech Journey’s destination for 2024. It all starts in November! Those interested can register for an information webinar on 4 July. (German only)

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