Additive Manufacturing / 3D Printing / 3D Scanning

Additive manufacturing reaches new heights

Sheila Kennedy says further advances in 3D printing materials, technologies propel making on demand.

By Sheila Kennedy, CMRP, contributing editor

New options are available for sourcing the billions of industrial parts that manufacturers need each year. 3D printers have advanced to the point where parts can be produced on demand in a wide variety of industrial-grade materials. Developments in metals printing, filament fusion, and higher-volume 3D printing capabilities are bringing additive manufacturing into the mainstream and delivering significant time and cost savings for organizations that incorporate the technology into their business.

Metals printing

Additive and hybrid manufacturing systems capable of producing sophisticated metal parts are in demand. For example, LENS 860 Hybrid Machines from Optomec incorporate advanced additive manufacturing software and controls that will enable 3D printing and milling of metal parts with complex contour surfaces and conformal internal structures, says Lucas Brewer, LENS application manager at Optomec.

“The LENS process is already 10 times faster than other metal additive methods, and these software advances will enable its cost-effective use across a broader range of industrial applications,” comments Brewer.

Tim Weber, global head of 3D metals at HP’s 3D printing business, says that HP is bringing together the advanced technology, quality, productivity, and economics required to make metals 3D printing for mass production a reality. According to Weber, HP Metal Jet provides up to 50 times more productivity at a significantly lower cost than other 3D printing methods. The voxel-level binder jetting technology will start with stainless-steel metal parts.

HP Metal Jet is currently deployed by GKN Powder Metallurgy, “the world’s largest provider of powder-based metal parts,” Weber says, to bring 3D metals to production with companies like Volkswagen as part of a multiyear initiative to transform the way they design and manufacture.

The compact Metal X 3D printing system from Markforged was chosen by hydraulic tool manufacturer Stanley Infrastructure, a division of Stanley Black & Decker, for use at its Innovation Center. Based on tests of two Metal X printed parts, Stanley estimated cost savings of more than 95% with parts that were as much as 50% lighter.

“Markforged enables engineers, designers, and manufacturing professionals to 3D-print strong parts ready for the factory floor,” says Jon Reilly, VP of product at Markforged. “Our composite printers are ... able to reinforce parts with continuous carbon fiber, fiberglass, or Kevlar, and our Metal X system prints MIM-grade parts faster and more affordably than before.”

Fused filament fabrication

Open filament systems such as the Ultimaker S5 desktop 3D printer support a range of printing materials. Ultimaker S5 offers reliable dual extrusion and a larger build volume, making it suitable for professional users who want to create functional prototypes, manufacturing tools, and end-use parts. Key features include fully integrated hardware, software and materials configuration and optimal settings alignment designed for enterprise use cases.

“3D printing is all about saving time, getting to a better design, and saving money,” says John Kawola, president of Ultimaker North America. “Customers like Jabil are implementing Ultimaker 3D printers into their workflow, cutting production time by 80%, and reducing the cost of tooling by 30%.”

Complementary solutions

The transition of 3D printing into mainstream manufacturing brings requirements for more-advanced 3D-printing machines, says Roger Hart, head of research and development at Siemens Industry’s Digital Factory division, motion control business. Augmenting CNC machining with additive manufacturing shortens delivery times, and using the right product lifecycle management (PLM) software facilitates the entire process from design to print and post-print inspection, Hart says.

“Siemens brings five- and six-axis additive manufacturing processes to the forefront with our Sinumerik 840D sl CNC control system,” Hart says. “Combined with the comprehensive manufacturing workflow in our PLM software suite, product manufacturers are able to achieve unmatched value from part design through to the finished part.”

Suppliers take note

Parts consumers are not the only ones benefiting from 3D printing. Metal parts supplier 3DEO makes precision-engineered metal components on demand with its proprietary 3D metal printers featuring patented Intelligent Layering technology. The company specializes in manufacturing low/medium volumes, including complex part designs, and is selectively accepting new high-volume orders.

“High-volume production in metal additive manufacturing is now a reality,” says Matt Sand, president of 3DEO. “3DEO has developed a proprietary, high-volume technology that is cost-competitive with traditional manufacturing, with superior surface finish and part quality that exceeds MPIF Standard 35. Metal additive manufacturing is ideally suited for small and complex metal parts.”