Lots of room for experimenting and taking initiative

Published on by Development & Engineering

Jeroen Jonkers is specialist Additive Manufacturing at NTS where he started to explore the relatively unknown area of 3D metal printing for the company some five years ago. In this he worked together with eight regional partner companies in innovation programme AddLab. Because of the room he was given to experiment, Jeroen made NTS a frontrunner in 3D metal printing. In the AddLab Jeroen had the opportunity to discover the possibilities metal printing offers and develop the desired competences for NTS. This way the benefits are twofold and Jeroen can do what he loves most: pioneering and experimenting.

Jeroen Jonkers looks back at year of pioneering, experimenting and sharing knowledge in the field of 3D metal printing with other specialists. His interest in Additive Manufacturing (AM), however, had already started quite some time before he started working at NTS. “I have always been fascinated by 3D printing,” says the AM specialist. “And by the emergence of fablabs. I once saw a documentary about ‘the maker movement’. That is why in 2011 I built my own 3D printer. I bought its parts on all kinds of web shops. The software then wasn’t as pre-programmed as it is now and I started experimenting and experiencing what the effects were. This experimental approach and the new way of manufacturing are fabulous.”

The challenge is in smart innovation

After he had finished his study mechanical engineering at Avans University of Applied Sciences Jeroen started working at the company he graduated at. It produced machines used in greenhouses. After an intermediate step in safety he started as designer/ planner at a bodywork factory in Tilburg. “The challenge was not so much in the routine work,” Jeroen explains; “70 to 80 percent of the work concerned standard bodywork, but the real challenge was how I could realise that the standard work preparations could be done in less than half of the time.” After Jeroen left Tilburg, he started at Brabant Engineering where he was posted as a designer for optomechanics at ASML for 5.5 years.

Larger variety in activities

With a resume filled with relevant project experience the time had come for a new challenge. “I have seen many sides of the profession but at a sudden moment the projects ended,” Jeroen explained. For me this was the reason to think about a next step. What did I actually really want? A smaller company, that was clear, one in which it was possible to arrange things easier and a company with a larger diversity in products and closer to the manufacturing industry.”

Little hierarchy and lots of opportunities to play a role

Jeroen took his wish list and went to NTS. An excellent move. “What I was looking for is what I found at NTS,” Jeroen says. “On the one hand it is very easy to speak with people from all parts of the organisation at NTS and besides that there are lots of opportunities to take initiatives. NTS invests in the future and you can play a part in this.”

Work is extremely divers and multi-disciplinary

“Moreover, there is a great diversity in engineering projects with a high quality that are approached in multi-disciplinary manner. And what is also great is that within NTS you have direct contact with the manufacturing industry. Developing, designing, manufacturing and assembly at NTS can be found within one company. I got a lot of room to pioneer and experiment. Of course, I needed to show results for it but that is what we did. In the AddLab we have had the opportunity to profoundly explore 3D metal printing and build the desired competences for NTS.”

Insight in the total manufacturing process essential for 3D design

An example of what the experiments resulted in is the insight that the total production process needs to be overseen in order to be able to make a good design. “At a certain moment the Formula Student Team from Delft asked NTS if we could print their topology optimised part for the suspension in titanium,” Jeroen says. “NTS has supported the team in the manufacturability and design verification”. After the part had been printed, we noticed that the part started trembling during the metal removal. This was a clear example of the fact that you need to maintain overview of the entire production process.”

Colleagues actively bring up ideas

“What is best about our progression in the field of AM is that colleagues now actively come to me with cases in which applying 3D printing could be really effective, that is a major step. By showing colleagues examples and letting them see and hold objects they are actually experiencing what the added value of Additive Manufacturing can be. In this way new ideas and applications exist. In the beginning I needed to approach my collegues for input whereas now they come to me with their ideas.”

Always looking for the opportunities the digital age offers

“This way of pioneering makes me enthusiastic. Especially during the first few years I spent a lot of my spare time on AM. During the exploration of the software for example, that is something I do because I am interested and it gives me a lot of pleasure. Throughout my entire career I halve always been looking for the possibilities the digital age offers us. The entire digital workflow of design and manufacturing process bring along a high dose high level of predictability and the same goes for 3D print processes. Taking into account all aspects of the design and print process is extremely difficult but we have already come a long way.”

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