What caught my eye recently is that 3-D Printing is no longer a novelty limited to a range of plastic materials. 3-D printing is doing metals; a range of them, in different alloys. This is where the term Additive Manufacturing comes in; it is the industrial grade of 3-D printing where metals are deposited.
Are you aware that a British Company, EOS, makes compact aluminum heat exchangers today with 3-D printing? EOS also has just announced Commercial Availability of EOS NickelAlloy HX for the aerospace industry.
3-D printing giant, ExOne, regularly prints machine components like this impeller, along with low-cost, high-quality casts for larger metal components…..
that includes a 57-inch impeller cast the company made for Standard Alloy — the largest RCT core ever built.
Leaders in 3-D printing technologies include GE where Researchers have been developing new technology in “Additive Manufacturing” for over 20 years.
General Electric is making a radical departure from the way it has traditionally manufactured things. Its aviation division, the world’s largest supplier of jet engines, is preparing to produce a fuel nozzle for a new aircraft engine by printing the part with lasers rather than casting and welding the metal. The nozzles are 25 percent lighter and as much as five times more durable than the existing model welded from 20 different parts.
Additive Manufacturing builds an object by adding ultrathin layers of material one by one. It could transform how GE designs and makes many of the complex parts that go into everything from gas turbines to ultrasound machines.
GE already has more than 300 3-D printing machines in operation and plans to have more than 100,000 parts manufactured by the additive process by 2020 by the GEA Aviation Division alone yielding a potential weight reduction of 1000 lbs per plane due to the technology.
Ford uses 3-D technology to print cylinder heads, brake rotors and rear axels for test vehicles. Thanks to Additive Manufacturing, production time for one type of cylinder head, used in its fuel-efficient EcoBoost engines, is cut down from four to five months to three, shaving 25% to 40% off production time. In the future, Ford believes its customers will be able to print replacement parts for their vehicles at a local 3D printer in a matter of hours or even minutes.
Boeing has dramatically increased the number of distinct parts it prints to about 300. And the technology has cranked out a total 22,000 pieces across 10 types of military and commercial aircraft, including the Dreamliner.
Although Additive Manufacturing is in its infancy the potential advantages are attractive:
- lower product costs
- lower weight (fuel savings)
- lower/zero waste
- shorter lead times (production and product development)
- improved quality
- easy customization
- a wide range of alternate metals
- material customization (variation) throught the part
Where do you see Additive Manufacturing being applied?