GE Aviation is acquiring five metal additive-manufacturing (AM) systems from GE Additive. The first four Concept Laser M Line systems will be installed at GE Aviation’s Additive Technology Center (ATC) in West Chester, Ohio, during 2022. A fifth M Line system will be installed at Avio Aero’s Turin site in Italy to support serial production of additive components for the GE Catalyst turboprop engine during 2022. Once installed at the GE Aviation ATC, two M Line systems will be dedicated to aluminum alloy. One each of the two other systems will be dedicated to cobalt chrome and nickel alloy 718, adding additional manufacturing capacity to GE Aviation’s additive infrastructure at its development facility.
SLM Solutions will join forces with Mahle, a leading automotive supplier, to improve the speed and quality of automotive components in both prototype and serial productions. Mahle will utilize SLM Solution’s systems to empower OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers to fulfill their need for metal additive manufacturing (AM) in serial production. The components will be printed with aluminum and stainless steel alloys, which are resilient and resistant to corrosion. Their topology is optimized to reduce overall weight. Structures that are too complex for conventional manufacturing methods are easily produced while still adhering to the strict quality standards of the automotive industry.
Optomec delivered a multi-functional metal additive-manufacturing (AM) machine to a supplier to the aviation engine maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) market. The machine combines two turbine repair process operations that are typically done manually, which not only reduces the cost of engine overhauls but also improves the quality and consistency of these flight-critical procedures. Optomec’s metal AM machines use a process called directed energy deposition (DED) to build 3D metal parts by depositing powdered metal into a precisely controlled pool of melted metal. Fiber-optic lasers supply the thermal power, while advanced motion-control systems produce the required geometries for the parts. This proprietary process precisely adds metal to worn engine components, restoring them to the geometric specifications set by the original manufacturers.
Burloak Technologies Inc., a division of Samuel, Son & Co. Ltd., established an additive-manufacturing center in Camarillo, Calif. With the addition of this facility, the company becomes North America’s first multi-site AM services provider. The new 25,000-square-foot facility bolsters the manufacturing capacity available at Burloak’s 65,000-square-foot Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence in Oakville, Ontario. Between the two facilities, the company offers laser powder-bed fusion, electron-beam powder bed, metal binder jet, and powder and wire DED technologies. In addition, Burloak offers post-production services including design, engineering, CNC machining, heat treatment and finishing.
Nikon Corp. acquired majority ownership of Morf3D Inc., a metal additive-manufacturing (AM) company specializing in AM and engineering for the aerospace, space and defense industries. El Segundo, Calif.-based Morf3D helps customers realize the potential of AM to solve complex design and manufacturing challenges. Using additive design and analytical tools combined with serial production experience, the company accelerates fully optimized functional structures and build processes.
A tool to optimize powder formulations for metal additive manufacturing will greatly decrease time for new alloy development and offer superior performance at lower cost for customized industrial applications.
The Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) in the U.S. Department of Energy is sponsoring research to formulate high-quality metal powders optimized for metal additive manufacturing (AM), including hard-to-build alloys such as high-temperature refractory alloys. AM refractory multi-principal-element alloys (MPEAs), comprising elements with melting points of 1850-2200°C, offer the potential for step-change improvements in extreme high-temperature resistance needed for the newest high-efficiency gas turbines and other industrial applications.
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.