Technology

Additive Manufacturing, much more than a 3D printer

In the last ten years, the industry of additive manufacturing has gone from the creation of prototypes to production, where quality and complexity requirements are much higher. The industrial sector is evolving from mass production at low cost to personalized production. And there is where additive manufacturing brings clean production, through energy and material efficiency, and can play a fundamental role in changing the manufacturing paradigm, helping to address the social challenges of our time, such as global warming, energy savings, or the decrease in resource consuming.
It is mainly the Aerospace sector that is giving momentum to additive manufacturing. In this sense, GE (General Electrics) inaugurated a research center in the USA, in 2016, with an investment of 32 million dollars. Several of its components manufactured with additive technologies have been authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States to be integrated into a new generation of jet engines and expects the production by AM of up to 100.000 parts for aircraft engines until 2020.
In the evolution of additive manufacturing equipment, it can be expected a reduction in prices of between 25% and 45% by 2020 for more conventional equipment. However, the high cost will be maintained for that equipment capable of providing greater manufacturing speed, the use of larger chambers (capacity to print large parts) and those that allow the automatic loading and unloading of the parts in the machine. To increase deposition speed and productivity, main developments focus on different key points: lasers with greater power, equipment that uses more than one laser to work in parallel, or to follow different deposition strategies, are considered. Quicker advances are expected for depository deployment systems at multiple points, due to the advantages that would entail increasing the manufacturing speed and eliminating the limitations of chamber size. Another option to reduce the time of the process is the use of systems that allow a faster deposition of material, or the completion of the process of deposition and fusion simultaneously.
The demand is growing increasingly for hybrid machines, that integrate the two functions of additive and subtractive manufacturing, which increases productivity and reduces downtime. In addition, modularization and integration concepts provide flexibility (combining and integrating peripheral elements), larger manufacturing chambers, post-processing and an automated handling or unloading station that can significantly reduce production costs.
Problems with materials, accuracy, surface finish and certification standards are complementary challenges that must be solved so that a widespread adoption of these technologies by the industry can occur. Therefore, the increase in size and complexity of future applications are driving the investigation of better controls of production processes, materials and inspections, to ensure the safety and traceability of components manufactured with a view to their use as final components.
In this scenario ADDvance provides solutions to some of the challenges identified in the market: the need for expert advice on the successful adoption of additive manufacturing technology and its integration with other production systems, the offer of a complete portfolio of special products, such as software specifically developed for AM, hybrid manufacturing equipment, unique and large printers and post-processing equipment, and systems integration, to gain in productivity, traceability and security along the complete production cycle.