Additive Manufacturing

SEP 2018

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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SEPTEMBER 2018 Additive Manufacturing 16 TAKING SHAPE The closer that 3D printing is to production, the more disruptive it becomes. A filament printer creating scale models on an engineer's desk is a far cry from a laser-sintering machine manufacturing jet engine parts from titanium powder. The first fits into an existing system; the second demands a new one. The successful pursuit of AM requires installing that capacity within a process that also considers design, material, quality control and data management in light of the new mode of production. Helping customers successfully pursue AM this way is a cur- rent focus for GE Capital, the financial arm of GE that is closely aligned with both GE Additive and AddWorks, its AM consul- tancy branch. "We have a dual mission to help customers get started and then scale with additive manufacturing," says Byrne Huddleston, commercial leader at GE Capital. Proto Precision Manufacturing Solutions is one example of a customer rapidly advancing into AM, with equipment, materials and financing provided by GE. The Ohio-based precision fabricator recently acquired its first metal AM machines (including the Arcam Q10+ pictured) in a process that took less than 6 months from first meeting to machine installation. For any manufacturer looking to make the leap into metal AM for production, Huddleston suggests considering the follow- ing points before making a purchase: • Production AM represents a significant investment beyond the machinery. Setup expenses may include the material itself, powder handling equipment, software, postprocessing tools and safety infrastructure, as well as staffing and training. • Needs change as scale increases. An established company, such as a machine shop that already has capacity to inspect and finish-machine metal parts, may only need the bare minimum of equipment to get started manufacturing with a metal 3D printer. But that company should also be prepared to expand flexibly as its operation scales up. As quantities grow it may make sense to add more printers and postprocess- ing equipment, or to integrate more advanced equipment such as CT scanners. • AM equipment lends itself to a flexible upgrade cycle. "It's not really like the CNC machining world, where you might buy the machine and keep it forever," Huddleston says, noting that his customers are often eager to keep up with rapidly changing technologies. That's why GE Capital offers a lease structure that allows cus- tomers to upgrade their equipment at the end of term. "We've tried to create an easy upgrade cycle, more like the technology market," he says. Flexibility in financing at the outset enables users to capitalize on future technology advances. • Metal AM is a long-term strategic investment. One mistake manufacturers make is "considering the machine purchase as a transaction, instead of a long-term strategic investment," Huddleston says. Companies may be able to integrate a metal 3D printer with minimal disruption, but they risk only getting minimal value out of the invest- ment. With AM, value is created by designing the entire system around the process. • Production AM demands a production infrastructure. AM makes the most busi- ness sense for production when it is used to manufacture AM-design-optimized parts from AM-validated materials, under proven AM parameters. "For many customers this means a culture change, as well as a paradigm shift in how they design and engineer," Huddleston says. Companies that succeed at scale will be those that make the shift. How Investing in Metal AM Is Different By Stephanie Hendrixson Proto Precision Manufacturing Solutions recently purchased and began using its first metal AM equipment including this Arcam Q10+ in a process that took just 6 months. Getting to production this quickly required a strategic approach.

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