AM Update: A conversation with Contributing Editor Kip Hanson
Sherri, what were some of the key drivers behind Kennametal’s decision to establish a 3D printing business unit last fall?
We see great opportunity for additive in our core markets. AM in the oil and gas market alone is projected to grow at ~40 percent CAGR thru 2027, according to market research. By establishing a standalone AM business unit, we’re tapping into the long-term growth potential of additive and continuing Kennametal’s ongoing commitment to advancing new technologies to better serve customers. Having a team that is entirely focused on driving these opportunities will allow us to better and more quickly serve our customers and emerge as a strong leader in the fast-growing additive segment.
Can you provide an overview of your 3D printing equipment and services?
We are focused on the additive applications where we can leverage our core capabilities in delivering material properties for demanding applications in wear, erosion, corrosion and high temperatures. We are delivering additive manufacturing solutions to our customers that include everything from powder metals, optimized for AM printing, to prototyping services and fully finished production components. We have capabilities in both laser-powder bed and binder-jet technologies. Given the nature of some of our niche, high-performance materials, such as Kennametal Stellite 6-AM-K and cemented tungsten carbide, many of our components are produced using binder-jet technology.
I understand you are already shipping production parts to customers. What are some examples? Why were they chosen, and what have been the results?
While we’re not at liberty to disclose specific customer details, I can tell you that the components we are providing are going into applications in market segments like oil and gas, power generation and other process industries where there is high demand for wear performance and/or where operational uptime is critical and downtime is very costly.
Tell us about your gas atomization powder production capabilities.
Kennametal is a leader in the development and production of gas-atomized cobalt, nickel and iron-based alloy powders. Our material and production expertise allows us to optimize powder metals for use in AM. We offer metal powders in our alloy families direct to customers printing their own components. We also customize unique formulations to differentiate manufacturability and performance of the final components we produce internally for our customers. Producing high-quality, repeatable parts requires a tight interdependency between materials, printing parameters, post-print processing and qualification. The ability to control material inputs is critical to achieving final engineering properties.
The additive section of your website lists a number of high-performance (and proprietary) alloys, such as Stellite, Nistelle and Delcrome. Why these metals, and are you making them available to service bureaus and 3D printing shops?
We chose to focus on our existing industry recognized brands like Kennametal Stellite, Nistelle and Delcrome, where we could deliver the same exceptional wear performance our customers have come to expect from these trusted materials, but with the added design freedom and supply-chain benefits afforded by AM. The material characteristics of these and other AM optimized alloys are an important competitive advantage of the 3D printed parts we produce for customers. We also supply these powders direct to customers for use in their own production.
The website also mentions design optimization and prototyping services. Why is this important?
Because so much of component design is dictated by the constraints of traditional manufacturing, customers often need to rethink what is possible. We partner with them on design for manufacturability. With 3D printing, we can add material, layer by layer, only where it is needed. That introduces possibilities to produce complex shapes not possible with traditional manufacturing or to consolidate parts. That’s where design optimization and prototyping come in. We can design specifically to reap the benefits of AM, and we can rapidly iterate versions to shorten the development cycle. And even when we’re using AM to produce a part designed for traditional manufacturing, prototyping services allow our customers—many of whom are new to additive—to see, touch and test components. That builds their confidence in AM solutions.
You are also using binder jet, considered by many to be a high-volume tech, to print tungsten carbide components. Where are you going with this?
We are developing cutting-edge AM technologies for everything from wear components to cutting tools. However, AM is just one tool in our toolbox and will not be the right manufacturing solution for every application. There will continue to be a need for traditionally manufactured parts in Kennametal’s core markets.
With about six months under your belt with Kennametal’s new business unit, what have you learned?
The big challenge in AM is being able to integrate materials, design and manufacturing to produce a part that performs as required in the most demanding applications. We’re already doing that. We’re delivering AM parts with the same material properties and performance our customers expect from traditionally manufactured components—but with the added benefits of AM, such as shorter development cycles and lead times. We’re continuing to expand our portfolio of printable alloys and material grades, which will open the door to more and more applications for AM.
VELO3D and Honeywell Aerospace enter partnership
Additive manufacturing solution provider VELO3D and Honeywell Aerospace will work together to qualify VELO3D’s Sapphire system as a viable manufacturing platform for the 3D printing of aircraft components, the firms said. The Sapphire system was selected for its unique capabilities in building highly complex geometries without the requirement of support structures, offering customers substantial time, cost and quality improvements, VELO3D CEO Benny Buller said.
The Sapphire 3D printing system will be installed at Honeywell Aerospace’s Phoenix facility, he said. The qualification process, scheduled for completion by the third quarter, is focused on INCONEL, a nickel-based super alloy well-suited for extreme temperatures. In addition to supplying the equipment, VELO3D will provide its expertise in developing suitable parameter sets for Honeywell Aerospace to complete material qualification using the Sapphire system to achieve optimal material properties.
“The geometric enablement we are able to offer customers like Honeywell Aerospace allows them to print what used to be ‘impossible parts’ and yet do it with a strong business case of improved cost and better quality,” Buller said. “We are excited to partner with Honeywell to demonstrate that 3D metal printing is a viable production manufacturing method for a wider range of end-use applications.”
Söeren Wiener, senior director of technology and advanced operations for Honeywell Aerospace, agreed. “We are qualifying VELO3D’s Sapphire system with the aim of printing geometries that can’t be fabricated on existing 3D metal printers. Their technology will help Honeywell develop new production-part applications while also meeting our material requirements for qualification. We intend to qualify this equipment through repeatability testing in our production environment, including build and post-processing, to generate an acceptable set of material property data and qualification of flight hardware.”
SmithsHP and Burloak Technologies to supply AM racing parts
Smiths High Performance and Burloak Technologies, a unit of Samuel, Son & Co., have signed an exclusive pact to supply additively manufactured metal and polymer parts to the worldwide Formula 1 racing market. The pair will work together to apply design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) principles to the production of lighter, stronger and optimally designed parts that improve overall performance, providing design flexibility and modifications unavailable through traditional manufacturing processes.
The advances in AM capabilities and the growing competitiveness of Formula 1 racing is an ideal point to bring this collaboration together to better serve the clients of SmithsHP, said Robert Kitchen, general manager of SmithsHP. Partnering with Burloak Technologies will, he said, let his firm “provide unique value to our customers through additive manufacturing, developing parts and applications that will be at the forefront of Formula 1 racing for many years to come.”
Burloak Technologies President Peter Adams said he believes the partnership is the best channel to extend the company’s capabilities in AM into the world of Formula 1 racing. “With SmithsHP’s reputation and position in the market, we are looking forward to the opportunity to apply additive manufacturing in innovative ways to solve real-time needs.”
New Renishaw software to improve AM part quality
Renishaw recently launched its InfiniAM Sonic acoustic process monitoring software to complement its InfiniAM suite of AM-monitoring tools. The new technology lets engineers detect acoustic events within the AM build chamber and turn this data into useful information about build quality. David Ewing, AM product manager at Renishaw, asserted that the software is the first of its kind in the industry.
The InfiniAM Sonic package is a factory-installed option on the company’s RenAM 500Q system, he said. It includes four acoustic energy sensors that detect minute vibrations in the build and collects the resulting sound waves so they can be heard, viewed and analyzed. The software is able to triangulate the position of any noise on the build plate, providing information as to where the noise occurred, as well as its magnitude. This data can then be combined graphically with other sensor data to build a comprehensive view of the part and the conditions at the time of build.
InfiniAM Sonic works in conjunction with InfiniAM Central and InfiniAM Spectral, which provides improved understanding of build quality, increased confidence in the build process and accelerated process development. The InfiniAM Central mobile app is also available, so that users can receive notifications on their build process in near-real time.
“Renishaw’s InfiniAM software suite makes it much easier to understand what’s happening during a build,” Ewing said. “Our Spectral and Central tools give manufacturers ‘eyes’ into their parts and processes; InfiniAM Sonic acts as the ‘ears.’ Each of these tools help engineers better understand what’s going on in the build chamber, and identify potential causes of defects early in the process. This is particularly useful while developing and validating parts, because the more data that’s available, the quicker it is to confirm manufacturing is meeting specifications.”
Barnes Group Advisors analyzes impact of Neighborhood 91
The Barnes Group Advisors (TBGA), an AM consulting firm, released an impact study revealing the economic benefits of an AM production campus for the Pittsburgh International Airport. The planned development, known as Neighborhood 91, will sit on 195 acres directly attached to the airport, and has been designed to house an AM ecosystem.
The report suggests that a cluster concept like Neighborhood 91 can act as a catalyst for additive industrialization and innovation. “A cluster does two key things,” said John Barnes, TBGA Founder and Managing Director. “It enables manufacturers to focus on developing and optimizing their core processes, and it creates a skilled regional labor pool. It is also a win for the region, because innovative companies locate near other innovative companies, something that Pittsburgh has repeatedly demonstrated over the years.”
GoPrint3D and Essentium accelerate adoption of AM in UK and Ireland
Essentium, a Pflugerville, Texas-based developer of industrial AM solutions, and the British firm GoPrint3D are set to resell the Essentium High Speed Extrusion (HSE) 3D Printing Platform in the U.K. and Irish markets. The combination of GoPrint3D’s service, support and customer knowledge and speed and economics of Essentium’s AM solutions will help remove barriers that have hindered the adoption of industrial-scale AM, the pair asserts.
While companies have begun to include 3D printing in their production processes, the bulk of manufacturing in UK and Ireland continues to be done by traditional CNC machines because of the limitations in speed, scale and economics associated with the majority of 3D printing solutions. Essentium and GoPrint3D will tackle these issues head on by offering operational know-how and a 3D printing platform that can reportedly produce end-use parts five to 15 times faster and five times more accurately than conventional Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), at a cost that makes 3D printing economically attractive.