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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Page 27 of 43

SEPTEMBER 2018 Additive Manufacturing FEATURE / Metal Additive Manufacturing 26 part into its fully dense, fully hardened state. The functionality and consistency of the resulting part's microstructure are at minimum equivalent to casting. An "area" process in which the binding agent is applied to the entire cross-sectional area of the build with each pass of the printhead array, binder jetting is inherently fast. HP has applied its printhead technology to making it faster. Meanwhile, the company's resources relat- ed to ink development have been focused on developing the binder agent, producing a proprietary agent effective enough so that the quantity needed is less than 1 percent of the green part by mass. Another benefit of binder jetting: no support structures. Loose powder supports the parts as they are built, including supporting parts one above another. All of the new machine's build envelope of 430 × 320 × 200 mm, in all three dimensions, is therefore available for nesting parts. In both speed and ca- pacity, the machine aims for production. The planned price tag is $399,000, Nigro says, but the company is not selling the machine yet. It won't sell it to the broad market for two years. Instead, learning from the experience with one of the leading users of its Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) plastics 3D printer, HP will begin by launching a part-making service. Upload Your Parts That leading user of HP's plastics 3D printing platform is a small company that proved to be a big champion for the technol- ogy. California-based Forecast 3D started as a service bureau for 3D-printed prototypes, but became a production house for 3D-printed plastic parts through its commitment to MJF. Ultimately it bought 24 of these machines, and it made many of its customers into believers in production 3D printing through its ability to deliver production quantities of design-optimized plastic parts with little lead time and no need for molds or other tooling. HP sees this model—partnering with manufacturers able to explore and advance the technology—as the way to intro- duce and prove out its metals platform. Going bigger with this model, HP has chosen as its partners for the new metal partmaking service the contract manufacturer GKN, which serves industries including automotive and aerospace, and Parmatech, which is well- established in medical. These two companies, which are already using MJ printers, will seek opportunities to expand manufacturing possibilities for their customers using these machines, and they will also fulfill orders for production parts placed through a new HP-hosted online manufac- turing portal through which customers can order parts by uploading CAD files. HP expects prospective future users of the metal 3D printer to employ this service as a low-cost way to experiment with it before the machine becomes available to the broad market in 2021. Automotive Application One other notable early user is Volkswagen. Nigro and Weber say this carmaker is on its own two-year trajectory with the MJ machine, planning to apply it first to cosmetic parts such as customized exterior details and then to noncriti- cal functional components, all with the aim of using metal 3D printing to manufacture operational components of an electric vehicle in 2021. In other words, for VW and for others, metal 3D printing as a means of routine, scale production of ferrous components is about this far away: two years. Except that what is "routine" will come to look differ- ent when that time has come. And the "scale" production at that point will happen at a different scale. VW intends to use additive manufacturing to reduce the car's weight and metal use by designing parts with complex lattice structures. It also intends to reduce the car's part count and manufacturing complexity by designing consolidated parts that would otherwise be assemblies. Thus, the form of production parts will change. Meanwhile, given the reduced need to invest in hard tooling, VW will be able to leverage additive to manufacture in smaller batches and go to market with a smaller initial run of the new vehicle. Production quantities will therefore change as well. These changes—these improvements to the nature of production—realize the advantages of additive manufac- turing. These are the beneficial disruptions the technology can bring. Yet the worth of those positive disruptions is offset if the cost per part or cycle time per part presents a negative disruption. The benefits of AM have arrived and will continue to advance, but the leaders of the 3D Print- ing group at HP believe VW's case illustrates something important about this advance and its potential. Namely, the breakthrough enabler—the necessary precondition for the advantages of additive becoming widespread—will be metal AM with economies and efficiencies competitive with today's production. Producing a part such as this roller finger follower today would require tooling such as a mold or, if machined from solid, would require an elaborate machining cycle. AM offers a simpler process. This part and the one farthest right on the previous page were made on the MJ platform by GKN.

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