The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) awarded nearly $4 million in grants to help accelerate the adoption of new measurement methods and standards to advance U.S. competitiveness in metals-based additive manufacturing (AM). According to NIST, these projects will improve U.S. manufacturers’ ability to use metals-based additive manufacturing to make high-quality, innovative and complex products at high volume. Through its own research and with these grants, NIST is addressing barriers to adoption of additive manufacturing, including surface finish and quality issues, dimensional accuracy, fabrication speed, material properties and computational requirements.
Our take on metals additive manufacturing (AM) is that it has made it past the “valley of death” in the so-called hype curve. It is being used widely and sometimes for unexpected applications. For example, I was impressed to hear a presentation from the Sonova Group about printing custom hearing-aid earpieces in titanium, for which the unexpected benefit was much better robustness against being dropped on the floor and crushed underfoot.
The U.S. Air Force awarded Albuquerque, N.M.-based Optomec a $1 million contract to deliver a high-volume production metal additive-manufacturing (AM) system for refurbishing turbine engine components, including titanium parts. The equipment will have a range of capabilities, including an automation system for batch processing, an oxygen-free controlled atmosphere and an adaptive vision system. The automated metal AM system will be capable of processing tens of thousands of repairs per year, with an initial focus on tip refurbishment for turbine blades. It will be installed at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.
CORE Industrial Partners, a Chicago-based private-equity firm, acquired GPI Prototype & Manufacturing Services LLC, a metal additive-manufacturing (AM) services provider, by CORE portfolio company Fathom. Founded in 2007 as one of the first metal AM services providers in the country, Lake Bluff, Ill.-based GPI uses direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) to print parts with complex geometries for on-demand manufacturing applications. The company utilizes a variety of metal powders – including aluminum, stainless steel, tool steel, titanium and cobalt chrome – and holds ISO 9001, ISO 13485 and AS9100D certifications.
Sumitomo Corporation of Americas (SCOA), the largest subsidiary of Sumitomo Corp., entered into an agreement to increase its investment in Sintavia LLC. Hollywood, Fla.-based Sintavia is a tier-one metal additive manufacturer for the aerospace and space industries. The parties jointly announced that the minority investment, which follows an initial investment by SCOA in 2018, will be used to fund Sintavia’s growing business of providing additively manufactured parts to the world’s largest aerospace and space companies.
VELO3D and Lam Research Corp. announced a joint development agreement that includes collaboration on novel materials and designs in metal additive manufacturing (AM) for the semiconductor industry. Lam Research plans to significantly increase the volume of parts produced by AM over the next five years. Campbell, Calif.-based VELO3D will develop new metal alloys on its Sapphire printer that are critical to Lam Research designs and technologies. Lam Capital will also invest an undisclosed amount in VELO3D.
3DEO has shipped 150,000 metal additive manufacturing (AM) production parts for end-use applications to date. This represents a significant milestone for the company, which was founded in 2016 to compete in high-volume metal-manufacturing markets against techniques like CNC machining and metal injection molding.
Open Additive LLC of Beavercreek, Ohio, has been awarded a $2.94 million, 27-month Air Force Commercial Readiness Program (CRP) contract to advance its metal additive-manufacturing (AM) technology and product line to industrial scale. The contract builds on the company’s prior Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) portfolio and independent research to develop versatile open-architecture laser powder-bed fusion systems with advanced processing and in-situ monitoring capabilities.
Falcontech Co. Ltd., an aerospace manufacturing service provider based in China, announced plans for its Super AM Factory initiative with the targeted installation of 50 metal additive-manufacturing (AM) systems supplied by Farsoon Technologies. Falcontech is enhancing manufacturing capacity for series production by adopting more Farsoon machines to its current facility, reaching a total of 20 systems by the end of 2020. The customized large-format system has a build envelope of up to 24.4 x 24.4 x 43.3 inches (620 x 620 x 1,100 mm), which gives Falcontech a production tool for large aerospace applications.
A technology developed at Graz University of Technology in Austria uses LED instead of laser sources for the additive manufacturing of metal parts. Researchers say it optimizes 3D metal printing in terms of construction time, metal-powder consumption, equipment costs and post-processing effort. Selective LED-based melting (SLEDM) is the targeted melting of metal powder using high-power LED light sources.