By 2027, the global additive manufacturing market is predicted to surpass USD 26.68 billion, showcasing an impressive growth rate of 14.4 percent, according to Reports and Data. As more benefits of additive manufacturing come to light like its flexible design and shorter production cycles, the industry has been tipped to be on the fast track to widespread adoption. Industries like the aerospace, medical, and automotive industries have all embraced 3D printing and the use of metals like alloy, titanium, and more recently, copper, to manufacture innovative and high-performance parts. This has also caused a spike in interest in the engineering sector, with more people pursuing an engineering degree. With the industry set to take off in the coming months, companies are investing more time, money, and resources into finding ways to expand the use of metals in additive manufacturing- starting with these recent notable developments.
Precision Metal Additive Technology
A few days ago, Mantle remerged onto the market with its new True-shape 3D printing technology aimed at reducing the manufacturing time in the tooling sector. The company has great success with its mould and additive technology so far. According to a global appliance manufacturer, the use of a Mantle mould resulted in 67 percent fewer costs and a 70 percent reduction in production time. It is hoped that the new Trushape hybrid metal printing technology will yield the same results for the tooling industry by reducing the time between developing and procuring tools using flowable metal paste such as steel.
3D Printing And Additives In Metal Fabrication
Additive manufacturing is also being used in sheet metal fabrication. Different grades of titanium metal sheet have been used in additive manufacturing by many industries including the aerospace industry for rotors and compressors, along with the medical industry for the manufacturing of orthopedic implants. A few years ago, automotive manufacturer General Motors also garnered a lot of interest when it unveiled a 3D printed seat bracket, made from stainless steel. This kick-started a conversation on how useful and feasible additive manufacturing would be in some industries such as automotive manufacturing. Some manufacturers have chosen to go ahead with exploring its use. This year, the Bugatti Bolide will hit the market and includes 3D printed titanium and carbon fiber throughout its body. Competitor, Chevrolet already uses 75 printed parts in its Corvette models but its use in the industry remains questionable when it comes to mass production.
Additive Manufacturing Suppliers Continue To Extend Their Metal Offerings To Include Copper. Traditionally, additive manufacturing systems were limited to the use of metals such as bronze, steel, and titanium. However, a leading supplier of additive manufacturing systems, Digital Metal, announced the addition of copper to its range of material offerings. The addition of pure copper bodes well for those in the electronics, engine manufacturing, and copper alloys industry, thanks to its proven heat conductivity and antibacterial properties. The copper additive market has been rapidly expanding in recent months, thanks to increased demand. The thermal induction properties of copper and design freedom that additive manufacturing provides, means this new addition has the potential to be widely adopted across both automotive and aerospace industries.
Industrialization Of Additive Manufacturing
In the past years, the use of additive manufacturing has been mainly aimed at the development of prototypes or customized machinery parts. For instance, NASA’s Rapid Analysis and Manufacturing Propulsion Technology (RAMPT) initiative rely on the use of additive manufacturing and 3D printing to print customized rocket parts using metal powder and blown powder directed energy deposition. Time and cost roadblocks have hindered the increased industrialization of AD across many other industries. Now, with projections from Siemens and other companies estimating that additive manufacturing will become 50 percent cheaper and 400 percent faster by 2023, companies are exploring potential partnerships to achieve industrialization.
Emerging partnerships like the recent collaboration between AMEXCI and SLM Solutions, are driving the widespread adoption of additive manufacturing in the industrial arena. According to the agreement, AMEXCI will evaluate the use of SLM’s NXG XII 600 for industrialized series production. The exploration of SLM Solution’s SLM500, the first quad laser system on the market, is also expected with the companies set to consider how the machine can help in the rapid production of metal parts. With the market for additive manufacturing materials and printing set to surpass $25 billion by 2022, it comes as no surprise that industries are moving towards exploring associated operating models.
These developments in the additive manufacturing and engineering industries are just a glimpse of the progress that is set to come shortly. With more being discovered about the potential of metals and additive manufacturing every day, there are ample opportunities for both companies and individuals in the engineering sector.