The future is circular and Thürmer Tools is leading the way.
Ingeborg Rosenvinge is head of R&D in Thürmer Tools and partner in the spin-off company TwentySeven where she leads the Additive Manufacturing team.
Ingeborg and her team at Thürmer Tools have disrupted traditional tool manufacturing by utilizing 3D printing technology, and are now exploring how to upcycle old tools into new ones.
Ingeborg Rosenvinge, the Head of R&D at Thürmer Tools and partner of the daughter-company TwentySeven, started out as a farm girl. She grew up on a large farm in jutland where everything was hands-on, and she loved learning how things worked. Today is no different as she thoughtfully and enthusiastically leads Thürmer Tools into the future of additive manufacturing.
She began in Copenhagen at CBS and worked her way through several insurance companies — hired once because she explained during an interview that her dream was to work in farming, and the boss immediately knew she was different and worth hiring. She never felt right in the insurance world and so she turned towards the family business (Thürmer Tools) when she saw an opportunity to move the company online. At the time, ca. 2008–2012, Thürmer Tools, in its fourth generation of operation was not ready to be online, and doubted the possibility of attracting new customers in any other fashion than through personal interaction. Ingeborg recognized that there was a generational difference here and at first, the online shop didn’t take off, but soon, it became more popular to purchase tools online and the company saw success. This becomes a theme for Ingeborg — she is undeniably good at recognizing future opportunities and trends and pivoting the company in the right direction.
In early 2013, Ingeborg heard about 3D printing on the radio, as Teknologisk Institut explained the technology. Her husband, Erick Thürmer had also seen a documentary on Discovery Channel about 3D printing and they were enthralled. Ingeborg got in touch with Teknologisk Institut and had 3D printed thread cutting dies in metal and brought them into work. “I still remember their faces, the guys who had been drawing and building these specialized tools their whole lives — first it was surprise and excitement and then fear, fear that they would lose their jobs the next day.” Their fear turned quickly to the practical, how to actually use this new technology. The rest is history: In 2014 Thürmer Tools applied for their first patent for a thread cutting tap with optimized inner cooling, made possible by 3D printing.
Today Thürmer Tools has just won a C-Voucher, (https://c-voucher.com/) EU support for developing new circular models, in this case, breaking down old tools into powder and then transforming them into new tools.
7 Questions with Ingeborg Rosenvinge:
- What are you curious about in technology right now?
Circular production. I’m really interested in material science — what you can actually do with materials. A few years ago I was speaking at SXSW and I met a company who was working on a solution to clean up ocean plastics, they said if their concept succeeded, ocean plastics would have value and then people would go out and clean up the oceans because they would then sell the plastics. An application that generates value succeeds. So now I’m curious about how material development in additive manufacturing makes tools valuable? How valuable is it to chop up tools and re-use them in 3D printers? Especially after COVID-19, companies are going to need to think about how we can reuse what we already have.
2. Why or how did you choose this path?
After working in insurance and finding that it wasn’t for me, I had a premature baby and we needed to move out of the city and find a new way of working. This is when we started the webshop for Thürmer Tools. It didn’t succeed right away but I had faith in it — we needed to transform this company into something which was following current technology trends. And, I like working in production, it’s much more hands-on like farming, you work on a computer but also in production, looking at, and feeling these products, optimizing how they’re being used, asking what we can do differently that makes them better?
3. What has been your biggest failure in the past year, and what did you learn from that?
When we first heard about 3D printing and I visited Teknologisk Institut, they had printed this little plastic car and took it off the printer, dusted it off, put it on the floor, pulled it back and it sped away. I couldn’t believe it was possible, I asked them if they had prepared it before I came, but they showed me that the spring was printed as part of the car.
I came home and literally for the first six months after that, I told everyone I met about 3D printing. I felt like this was our Kodak disruption moment. However, many people told me, you’re not an engineer, you don’t know anything, which always makes me more determined, I do not take no for an answer. It makes me even more curious!
My failure was thinking it could happen overnight — I was naive. When companies have a whole production or setup that they’ve used a lot of money on, they will try to get as much revenue from their investment as possible. I really learned a lesson — that we need to have respect for what’s already here. I’m more humble now, also with the circular production and I know it will be a long process to uncover the things that make sense and those that don’t.
4. What is your biggest daily challenge working with technology in this field?
Funding. It’s difficult — who wants to spend money on something with an unknown return on investment? I want to try things out and people are always telling me it’s a waste of money and that I’ll fail, but hey, you have 9 fails and 1 win and that’s enough to make people say wow. It will be even more tough in our current economy. We had many interested investors in January and February and now they are backing off, in six months from now when the impact of COVID-19 hits us it will be even harder.
5. How do you see concretely, the next 5 years and this new decade in tech?
Right now, the whole world is closed down and it’s scary to realize how dependent and reliant we are on China — we outsource so much. In early 2000, a big part of our thread cutting tap production at Thürmer Tools was moved to China with financial support from the government — we would have rather kept it in Denmark but it simply wasn’t financially possible.
Because of COVID-19 we see the opposite starting to happen, companies taking production back, at least in Europe. In this light the more we can re-use and recycle and focus on local production, that’s the future. That’s where this technology — additive manufacturing and 3D printing will become really big. Circular models are key here to ensure local, sustainable production. What we’re aiming for now, to break down and re-use old tools to make new ones, does have limitations: A tool today which is really hard will not produce a tool of the same tensile strength, but it will produce another tool.
6. What has been your favourite project to date and why?
Two years ago we were approached by two Danish guys who had bought a skeleton of a real Tyrannosaurus Rex. There’s only two of these in the world and Leonardo DiCaprio owns the other one. They asked us to make a scan of the head, which was over a meter long. They wanted a smaller head printed to mount on their walking sticks (jagtstok). We made several samples of this and in the end had it printed for a wax model and in the end made in silver for them. It was really interesting to make something in silver and I’d like to continue to explore this, and the creative side of printing in the future.
7. What do you think is something we should be paying attention to?
Material science. There are so many developments within bio and additive manufacturing. It’s exciting to see what they can do — for example, if you break your arm, doctors can just scan the other arm and have new bone printed. We’re also printing on a cellular level, this will be popular in the future, and it’s fascinating what they can do. I don’t know that much about it, but wow! Blood vessels. New kidneys. If you have bad lungs — you can do something about it. These are major steps for humanity.
Follow Ingeborg and Thürmer Tools’ workhere:
Anyone entering the office of Thürmer Tools in Gilleleje is met by large black-and-white portraits of four generations…
Greater Spaces is written by Majken Overgaard and Vanessa Julia Carpenter where we work to expand the narrative of what technology is and who creates it. We speak with Danish and international female role models within technology and between these interviews we share what is most interesting to us, with a focus on diversity.