Additive Manufacturing

AUG 2017

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING is the magazine devoted to industrial applications of 3D printing and digital layering technology. We cover the promise and the challenges of this technology for making functional tooling and end-use production parts.

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AM / Designed to Go Global additivemanufacturing.media 37 "We can only industrialize AM if there are actual products which can be mass produced in an AM factory," Fruth says. "The products demand a different design, and the way of thinking is fundamentally different when using additive technologies." The company often refers to its services not as AM but as "ADM," for additive design and manufacturing. The factory is now in full swing, and Fruth plans to replicate the concept in Germany this year to add capacity and to test whether the concept is ready for a global rollout. As it moves forward, the company expects an investment volume of 20 to 30 million euros per factory. The United States is one of the countries that will see a FIT factory in the coming years, Fruth said. Today, the company is represented in the U.S. by FIT America located in Southborough, Massachusetts. Kenneth Gray is chairman of FIT America. He says his focus at present is developing partnerships to accelerate industrial clients toward AM. "Our aim is for additive to be a mainstream tool for U.S. industrial manufacturers—and soon," he says. Vice President of Sales John Baliotti points out that additive manufactur- ing work commissioned out of the current German factory is a potentially attractive option anywhere in the world, because it can rely on a certified, unified and tested process. Transport costs are negligible, as most AM parts are light and can be delivered within 1.5 days. However, he adds that shipping is not necessarily easy and quick for parts worth more than $1,000, due to customs. "Delivery times are crucial, that's why we'd welcome a facto- ry in the U.S.," he says. And that will come. Fruth did not commit to a particular date, but the values he sees are numerous. Factories established locally in various countries will be valuable not only because of shipping costs and delivery times, but also due to certain constraints as found in the aerospace and defense industry, for instance, where countries like the U.S. or Israel wouldn't want certain components to be made in other countries. "Our goal is to make FIT one of the world's leading manufac- turer in AM," Fruth concluded. "Therefore, we need to produce parts much more cost efficiently than anyone else, and create a McDonald's-style global, scalable business concept. It's not an easy task, but to quote Ray Kroc: If you're not a risk taker, you should get the hell out of business." Meanwhile, the factory's upper floor hosts plastics AM with three different material feeding systems and 12 selec- tive laser sintering (SLS) systems, processing materials such as PA11, PA12, PAGF, PAAL and TPU. Here, 1,500 different parts are produced every day. For just-in-time production, FIT uses a kanban system along with ERP to coordinate the production from pre-processing (data translation, data check, data repair, data orientation, support generation, job placement, parameter setting, slicing) to processing (machine setup, job start, job build, part removal) and postprocessing (job control, pre-heat treatment, part sepa- ration, support removal, post-heat treatment, verification, milling, measurement). Quality control is important for consistent and repeatable part quality, which is essential for series production applica- tions. Consequently, FIT has numerous measuring systems in place, including CMMs, CT scanners, a 3D profilometer, opti- cal microscopes, tensile testing machines, X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, optical 3D scanners and more. And along with leveraging these capabilities to provide customers with component production, FIT is also support- ing its clients—in sectors including automotive, aerospace, medical and general engineering—with part design and development. Above: The upper floor hosts plastics AM, with three material feeding systems and 12 SLS machines producing 1,500 parts per day. Facing page: Postprocessing such as machining is a neces- sary part of a production AM process, and therefore also part of the factory concept.

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