Additive manufacturing / 3D printing (AM/3DP) is destined for continued growth. Products are more easily customized with less waste, using less material, and they can be brought to market faster with expanded options for materials and processes.
Currently, AM/3DP produces less than 1% of the world’s manufactured parts, but as the industry grows, it could triple its market value by 2021 to more than $26 billion.
Applications for AM/3DP include design, concept modeling, fit-and-function testing, patterns for casting, fixturing, tooling, prototyping, short-run production, series production, and custom and replacement part manufacturing.
The technology continues to advance on dual tracks – revolutionary applications that could change how products are designed and built in the future, and evolutionary systems that enhance and support traditional manufacturing.
Radical new design, such as 3D-printed lattice structures that lower part weights by eliminating massive amounts of material without sacrificing structural integrity, are enabling military equipment, space exploration, racecar designs, and medical devices with surfaces customized to promote bone growth. As these technologies mature and prove themselves to users, expect to see new markets develop for AM/3DP processing and materials.
Even in the markets not looking for such radical changes, AM/3DP technologies will play a major role. High-volume, low-mix manufacturers are poor candidates for AM/3DP use as a primary production technology, but they can use jigs and fixtures custom-printed for different workers, plastic injection-molding tooling AM/3DP printed with conformal cooling channels built in, or workholding devices that support oddly-shaped workpieces for machining.
With so many applications on the horizon, technology companies are investing heavily to address AM/3DP shortcomings and highlight benefits of digital systems. In this dynamic market, the Additive Manufacturing Target Guide 2019 offers a look at applications, technologies, and the future of the technology that is reshaping the manufacturing world.
— Elizabeth, Robert, Eric, & Michelle
Additive manufacturing is a process used to create three-dimensional parts from a digital file. It usually involves building up, or solidifying, thin layers of material to create complete parts. The technology is able to produce complex shapes which cannot be produced by ‘traditional’ techniques such as casting, forging and machining. Additive manufacturing introduces new design possibilities, including combining multiple components in production, minimize material use and reduce tooling costs.
We design and manufacture additive manufacturing systems for manufacturing components in a variety of metals using a process called metal powder bed fusion (or laser melting). Our expertise in process development and our experience in using the technology in our own manufacturing operations enable us to provide turn-key and optimized additive manufacturing solutions for a broad range of applications in industrial and healthcare sectors.
Where we specialize?
Productivity –The intelligent case flow design, and precise optical and mechanical control of the RenAM 500 series enables components to be produced with minimal pores and defects, typically >99.9% dense. Process emissions from melt pools are quickly removed from the build chamber, ensuring stable processing conditions and melting behavior. Real-time process monitoring capability provides traceability of the processing performance.
The RenAM 500 series of AM systems can be configured with a choice of one, two, three, or four lasers. The RenAM 500Q is configured with four high-power 500W lasers. Each laser is able to access the entire powder bed simultaneously to achieve the most efficient laser assignment, so the RenAM 500Q can achieve significantly higher builder rates, vastly improving productivity, and lower cost per part.
Performance – Improving the predictability of additive manufacturing to create a consistent and stable process boosts process throughput and the delivery of functional parts.
Solutions Centers – Renishaw Solutions Centers provide a secure development environment in which you can build your knowledge and confidence using additive manufacturing technology.
How can we help you?
Production manufacturers and sub-contractors – Developing additive manufacturing capabilities can be the natural next step in developing your company’s manufacturing capabilities.Product owners and designers – Metal additive manufacturing allows metal parts to be built without the need for traditional tooling and with few limitations in geometry. Equally, it is complementary to traditional subtractive methods and can be readily integrated into existing production operation.
Service bureaus – Providing versatile systems to enable you to consult, design and build precision finished parts from a variety of materials for your customers. Renishaw’s end-to-end solutions enhance any additive manufacturing service bureaus capabilities.
Research and education – Renishaw partners with many universities, researchers and academic institution on metal additive manufacturing projects. The open parameter ethos for materials used on our systems helps to encourage development of parameters for new materials.
Renishaw is an experienced user of additive manufacturing as a complementary process to its conventional manufacturing operations and can provide expert advice to help in your adoption of additive manufacturing. To learn more about our additive manufacturing systems and services for your industry, visit: https://www.renishaw.com/additive.
For polymer and composite additive manufacturing (AM), users have had two primary options – powder-bed systems that use heat to melt powdered material into shape, or filament-based systems that melt the edge of a thin polymer wire and stack the melted layers on top of each other.
With metal AM, systems such as selective laser melting (SLM) laser cusing, and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) dominate because of a lack of usable filaments. Stoughton, Wisconsin-based The Virtual Foundry (TVF) is changing that, offering metal filaments that can be used on the same equipment designed for polymer AM.
TVF has been working with a range of manufacturers, testing its trademarked printing filament – Filamet – to gage suitability, and expand AM applications while lowering costs. Company executives recently spoke to GIE Media editors about the state of AM and how they are disrupting the market.
Direct metal printing
Unlike traditional metal AM technologies, such as selective laser sintering (SLS) or powder bed fusion (PBF), TVF’s direct-metal printing (DMP) technology does not generate a finished part out of the printer. Filamet – produced in widths of 1.75mm or 2.85mm – is a mixture of plastic pellets (the binder) with a metal powder. It’s similar to a green gear or other powdered-metal (PM) part that must undergo furnace sintering to harden.
As the printed parts heat up, and before sintering fuses the particles together into a solid whole, the binder material evaporates. Because Filamet is encased in the binder, it doesn’t require respirators, solvents, specialty chemicals, or special handling equipment, just heat, making it safer than existing laser-based metal 3D printing solutions.
Technology inventor and company founder Brad Woods says the two-step process of printing then heat-treating hasn’t been as much as a deterrent as he feared when he developed the technology. At the time, he was concerned that industrial users would stick to costly systems that could produce finished parts.
“I expected people who had access to this technology were satisfied, but they weren’t,” Woods says. He adds that aerospace defense giant Lockheed Martin was the first to test the system, “and they were very interested in this even though they had access to all SLS machines, as much as they wanted.”
Even with the furnace step, filament-based printing tends to be faster and requires less specialized training, making AM technologies more accessible to manufacturers who don’t have large numbers of specialists.
Also, because Filamet works in small desktop machines up to the massive filament-based systems that can produce entire car bodies, the technology offers larger build envelopes than otherwise available with metal AM.
Most companies experimenting with TVF’s Filamet have been doing so on a small scale – testing individual parts or using the technology as a design tool rather than a production method. Woods says he expects that to be the case for some time.
“At this point, they’re looking for methods to manufacture intricate parts – multiple component parts – and they are unable to make the entire piece subtractively,” Woods says. “In aerospace stators and rotors for example, manufacturers are working to combine elements, consolidate as many features as possible, and 3D-fabricate fins.”
TVF’s President, Tricia Suess, adds that major manufacturers have billions of dollars invested in traditional manufacturing technologies that work well, so AM will be in more of a design/support role for some time.
“The technology is advancing but won’t replace mass production today. That’s not what we’re focused on,” Suess says. “3D printing is shining in engineering and prototype shops.”
Specialty AM applications could also be a growth area. Suess notes that several companies have discussed custom filament materials for low-volume, oddball products that are hard to produce economically.
TVF also has tungsten and copper filaments in its repertoire, with both providing radiation shielding while still in a green state. An early test sample with the tungsten showed great radiation shielding properties while being lightweight, Suess notes. This development had the team thinking about other applications, and by the end of February 2019, TVF signed a joint venture (JV) with Vulcan Global Manufacturing Solutions for tungsten Filamet’s use in radiation shielding for medical and industrial purposes.
“We still have the original test sample and have since printed a collimator – it guides the radiation – but those were for proof of concept,” says Mike Daniels, TVF’s global sales leader. “Since then, we have done proof-of-concept printing of apertures for cancer treatment and held test runs with a local hospital.”
Woods adds that production volumes should increase quickly as manufacturers complete initial tests with new technologies and get more comfortable specifying 3D-printed components in various finished products. Automotive powertrain supplier ZF North America Inc. has test-printed in copper, and other motor vehicle manufacturers are playing with the technology.
“Once they’ve vetted our materials, we can move along as they prove our product on their products,” Woods says. “Being vetted in many areas and seeing a fair amount of prototyping going on means we’re heading in the right direction.”
The Virtual Foundry
Orbex has introduced the environmentally-friendly Prime, the largest metal rocket engine 3D-printed in a single piece on SLM Solutions’ SLM800. Founded in 2015, the UK-based spaceflight company develops small satellite launch vehicles and introduced Prime at the grand opening of its headquarters in Forres, Scotland. The Prime launcher uses 100% renewable fuel, cutting carbon emissions by 90% and a zero-shock staging and payload separation for zero orbital debris. Its design was optimized for selective laser melting (SLM) production, resulting in a structure 30% lighter and 20% more efficient than any other launch vehicle in its category.
Orbex aerospace engineers partnered closely with the applications engineering team at SLM Solutions’ Lübeck, Germany headquarters to ensure success when transferring the design into selective laser melting production. Applications Specialist Lukas Pankiewicz headed the consulting team inside SLM Solutions, developing parameters optimized for this geometry. Working with the design team at Orbex, Pankiewicz consulted on design features and orientation options to help ensure a successful part build with the required material properties and dimensional accuracy.
“Our aim during the process was to fulfill the quality expectations of the Orbex team, keep the functionality of the part, and make it suitable for additive manufacturing (AM),” Pankiewicz says. “Every single support structure used in data preparation has been customized to obtain the best quality in every section of the engine, taking post-processing into consideration as well.”
The SLM800 large-format metal AM system features a 260mm x 500mm powder bed that can build parts 800mm tall, allowing the Prime engine to be built of a special nickel alloy in one piece. The SLM800’s SLMHUB unpacking system integrates contactless powder handling and automated build chamber conveyors to transfer the finished part to an unpacking station to remove powder through vibration and rotation. Pankiewicz incorporated into the build a powder removal strategy with delivery channels to remove as much powder as possible while reducing material loss.
After production, SLM Solutions’ metallography lab analyzed reference samples built together with the engine to prove porosity level and distribution met quality acceptance criteria. The rapid iteration times inherent to the SLM process allowed Orbex to save 90% in turnaround time and more than 50% in costs compared to traditional CNC machining.
“This has always been what SLM Solutions is about,” says Dr. Axel Schulz, SLM Solutions’ chief sales officer. “Members of our team helped invent selective laser melting technology. We’ve always wanted that technology to succeed. SLM Solutions consulted Orbex on how to make the technology best work for them and transferred that knowledge to ensure successful implementation as they ramp up to production.”