Manufacturing Engineering: Your website says that Sandvik has been perfecting additive manufacturing since 1862. How so?
Mikael Schuisky: As materials technology specialists, manufacturers of gas-atomized AM powders, and experts in post-processing methods such as heat treatment and machining, Sandvik masters every step of the additive manufacturing value chain. So our journey with additive manufacturing had already started in 1862; we just didn’t know it at the time. And the knowledge we’ve been gathering since is crucial to succeed in the industrialization of additive manufacturing.
ME: What are the key things an additive manufacturer should know about metal powders? Aren’t they all pretty much the same?
Schuisky: First of all, not all metal powders are the same, as there are a number of different industrial processes used to manufacture them. The most common of these is gas atomization, although plasma atomization and PREP (Plasma Rotate Electrode Process) are also used for selective alloys. Regardless of the technology, the ideal characteristics for a metal powder used in AM (powder bed fusion) are:
--Spherical shape (with low levels of satelliting) to ensure good flowability;Tailored particle size distribution to ensure good flowability and optimized for the requirements of the individual machine and technology;
--Dense particles with limited internal voids/oxides and non-metallic inclusions;
--Controlled and uniform chemical composition;
--Low humidity/retained moisture to ensure good flowability; and
--Free of external contaminants.
Even looking across different gas atomizing manufacturers, there is significant variability between different suppliers depending on how much they have optimized the process to ensure that these characteristics are replicated consistently.
ME: Without getting too technical, how does your gas atomization technology differ from the other methods used to make metal powders?
Schuisky: Sandvik has been producing metal powders for well over 40 years, and during that time has focused exclusively on gas atomization. In the context of AM, we have been supplying powders to the industry for more than 15 years, so we have accumulated a lot of experience and knowledge around how our powders behave and how to optimize the process to deliver a high-quality product. We’ve developed our own proprietary in-house technology that we believe affords us advantages, not only in terms of the quality and consistency of the powders we manufacture but also in the efficiency of the process itself.
ME: Many reading this have already heard about Sandvik’s work with Seco on coolant clamps, and the CoroMill 390 lightweight cutter body. What are you doing to help non-Sandvik manufacturers develop additive products?
Schuisky: I’m unable to mention any external customer cases since they most often are covered by NDAs and confidentiality agreements. However, the AM service team at Sandvik offers additive manufacturing of a wide range of materials, and especially high-alloy materials like duplex and super duplex grades for various applications. We also have a deep understanding of hard and superhard materials like cemented carbides and diamond composites, and carry extensive knowledge of binder jetting, powder bed fusion technologies, and even stereolithography. Because of this, we are able to support many external customers with various AM offerings, materials, and advisory services.
Among these are DfAM courses, additive design assistance, and prototype manufacturing, as well as the development of special print parameters for unique AM materials. And in 2019, Sandvik acquired a significant stake in BEAMIT, a leading European-based service provider that in turn acquired Italian service bureau ZARE one year later. This brings together two leading AM companies to create one of the largest independent AM service providers in Europe, making our joint capabilities even broader.
ME: Thus far, the metal powder industry has focused on replicating existing materials such as stainless steels and superalloys. Do you foresee that additive will promote the development of entirely new metal alloys?
Schuisky: Absolutely. Completely new alloys as well as ones that have been optimized for the different additive manufacturing processes or technologies will become available over the coming years. This is an area where Sandvik Additive Manufacturing can make a real difference, with our extensive materials heritage, leading R&D and unique metallurgical capabilities.
ME: Sandvik has recently entered into collaborative efforts with the likes of Renishaw and GE Additive, as well as acquiring several smaller companies. What is the long-term plan for the company with regards to additive?Schuisky: Sandvik Additive Manufacturing has a world-leading position in metal powder with the widest range of AM alloys on the market. We’ve also made sizable investments into a wide range of AM printing technologies since 2013. Adding 158 years of leading expertise in materials technology, 75 years in post-processing methods like metal cutting (via brands like Sandvik Coromant and Seco Tools), sintering and heat treatment, we have well-established and leading competence across the entire AM value chain. Our long-term plan is to continue to build on our position, both for metal powder and for additive manufacturing services of high-end components in the most demanding industries.
ME: What do you feel were some of the more notable developments in additive manufacturing over the past year, and why?
Schuisky: That’s difficult to summarize in a short answer, but one of the obvious trends seen during 2020 is the increasing number of lasers available in powder bed fusion machines. SLM Solutions announced its NXG XII 600 system with 12 lasers, for example, and Additive Industries has introduced its MetalFab 600 System with 10 lasers. Together with larger build volumes, this looks really promising when it comes to improving productivity for the powder bed fusion technology. As a specialized metal powder supplier, we also saw an increase in demand for more advanced materials like special steels, such as FeCrAls and Super Duplex, and also for additive manufacturing of hard and superhard materials like cemented carbides and diamond composites.
Stratasys Ltd., Rehovot, Israel, has given its J750 Digital Anatomy 3D printer the ability to print bone replicas that are both bio-mechanically realistic and modeled on actual patient scans. The software upgrade enables the system to mimic ligaments, fibrotic tissues, and porous bone structures. This allows medical professionals to improve surgical preparedness and medical device makers to conduct extensive testing and train medical professionals on new devices. “3D-printed models that are bio-mechanically accurate and unique to each patient are critical to that preparation,” said Vice President Osnat Philipp, who heads up the global healthcare team at Stratasys Ltd.
The international 3D printing on-line ecosystem Jellypipe AG, Fislisbach, Switzerland, has a new member, Incremental Engineering Ltd., Hampshire, England. The company is said to produce production quality nylon parts using HP Multi-Jet Fusion (MJF) technology, and specializes in working with small to medium enterprises and “fitting in” to existing supply chains. Technical Director Jerry Sutton noted that the 3D printing service provider works “more as a traditional machine shop” instead of relying exclusively on its online ordering system. “We work collaboratively where we can, gathering as much information from our customers as possible in order to set up and fine tune builds for specific applications, thereby providing consistently good and reliable results.”
As additive manufacturing powder developer 6K Additive, New Cumberland, W.V., begins the roll-out of its Onyx line of premium powders at a new 40,000 ft2 (3,716 m2) lights-out manufacturing facility, the company announced that it has hired several notable experts for its production team. Among them are Dr. George Meng from GE Aviation, who developed and industrialized a new powder for plasma suspensionspray coating, as well as three employees of Carpenter Technology Corp.: Principal Metallurgist John Meyer, Senior Materials Engineer Dave Novotnak, and Joe Muha, principal powder metallurgist. The company also recently announced a $1 million award to convert U.S. defense scrap metal to premium AM powder. For information on sampling 6K powders, visit www.6Kinc.com.
Users of Lasertec SLM metal powder bed printers from DMG Mori, Hoffman Estates, Illinois, have a new option for monitoring 3D-printed part quality. It’s called PrintRite3D, and it comes after an agreement between the machine tool builder and Sigma Labs, developers of the quality assurance system. Engineering teams from both companies worked extensively to test the integrated melt pool monitoring solution, and have since deployed the system at their first customer, advanced manufacturing and Industry 4.0 technology provider IN4.OS.
Users of the bound metal deposition (BMD) Studio System from Desktop Metal, Burlington, Mass., can now print parts made of pure copper. This is good news for manufacturers producing heat sinks, electrical motor and power grid components, resistance welding electrodes, and any components where thermal and electrical conductivity are critical. This is the latest addition to the system’s materials library that also includes 4140 chromoly steel, H13 tool steel, 316L, and 17-4 PH stainless steels.
Alba Orbital, Glasgow, Scotland, is making significant use of 3D-printed components from Italian manufacturer CRP Technology in its latest “satellite dispenser,” the AlbaPod V2 PocketQube Deployer. According to an article from the European Space Agency (ESA)—which lauded the company’s efforts—the lightweight design can be easily integrated into any launch vehicle and fills a void for much needed ultra-small satellite deployment platforms. The new system uses CRP’s proprietary Windform XT 2.0 carbon fiber-reinforced composite material and is designed to take nine satellites into orbit on a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
A report from business intelligence firm IDTechEx forecasts the global market for 3D printing materials will be worth $18.4 billion by 2030. At least some of that growth is attributable to the boom in fused filament fabrication (FFF), the report stated, thanks to the expiration of the well-known AM technology’s patent in 2009, plus the fact that there has also been a significant evolution in printers and printer consumables. It is now possible to print larger, more intricate items than ever before in a wide and growing range of materials, among them photosensitive resins, thermoplastic powders, thermoplastic filaments, metal powders, metal wire, and ceramic powders. Because of these and other factors, “we now see 3D printing moving into mainstream manufacturing and onto production lines.”
Optomec Inc., Albuquerque, N.M., has introduced a 3D additive electronics printer for integrated circuit (IC) production, dubbed the Aerosol Jet HD2. The “advanced electronics packaging solution” is designed to meet the demand for miniaturization of mobile and wearable products, and will be used to produce high resolution circuitry, including the ability to dispense conformal 3D interconnects between die, chips, components and substrates. It works by precision jetting an extremely fine mist of nanoparticle-based inks onto a surface—the HD2 can reportedly print features as narrow as 10 μm with placement accuracy under 5 μm. The nanoparticles are then sintered together, forming a solid metal conductor of copper, gold or silver. Insulating and adhesive materials can also be applied.
Henkel AG & Co., Düsseldorf, Germany, has joined with dental and cosmetic product manufacturer Keystone Industries, Gibbstown, N.J., to develop KeyModel Ultra, a “next generation” of 3D dental modeling resin said to offer a new level of accuracy, detail, and speed. The new resin is formulated for rapid printing and fast post curing, and is designed to reduce peel forces, thus increasing print accuracy. “As model printing for clear aligners is the number one application in dental, our teams developed a material that offers an integrated release agent, making vacuum-formed aligners easier to remove than with other materials and improving the workflow,” said Doug Statham, senior director of digital materials at Keystone.
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