One of the world's largest adhesive companies, Henkel, is investing €18m over the next four years at its Tallaght research and development centre, as it opens a European hub for 3D printing technology there today.
Henkel's brands include the likes Sellotape and Super Glue. 3D printing involves taking a computer file of a 3D object and turning it from a liquid or a powder to a solid object.
Henkel's global head of 3D printing, Philipp Loosen, said the impact of 3D on research and development and manufacturing has been growing in recent years. "For the last decade it was mostly used to prototype, but now as material quality improves, you can use it for actually functional manufacturing and this is expected to transform the world of manufacturing."
Mr Loosen said that 3D printing will not replace traditional manufacturing methods right away and that "it will take time, it will go over decades. But at the moment we see really a tipping point, because materials are improving so much it can actually replace certain applications like injection moulding," he said.
On the €18m investment in Tallaght, Mr Loosen said "We have a production site, we have very skilled R&D scientists there and we want to basically strengthen that. We will also invest of course into people and want to build up our capabilities here in Dublin," he added.
The global 3D printing head at Henkel said the objective is to add jobs at the site, but Mr Loosen would not be tied down to a number. "I cannot see the details, we need to see how it develops but the objective is to create more jobs in production and for scientists."
Mr Loosen said Henkel chose Ireland for the investment because the company already has a strong network here. "In Tallaght we have world-class scientists, we have a very good production site and the combination of production and engineering, the application centre, and the scientists is really unique in our network and that is why the Dublin location is a really strong place among the choices we had."
He added Brexit was a "very, very minor" factor in the company's decision to grow in Ireland. "We're mostly interested in having skilled people, to have access to the market, so it hasn't been a big factor in the decision-making." Mr Loosen said the threat of potential tariffs post-Brexit are not a huge concern. "We're observing that for sure. We don't expect major business disruption ... but of course we are watching."
Henkel currently employs about 400 people across its three sites in Tallaght, Ballyfermot and Little Island, Cork. Mr Loosen said the other sites should also benefit as the company grows. "We have also been a very growth-focused company so I think it will affect not only Tallaght, but also the other sites."
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