IMTS 2022: 3D printing is a manufacturing technology. Now what? –


About ten years ago, 3D printing started to become a real production technology. This has seen manufacturers of industrial additive manufacturing (AM) systems engaged in a variety of efforts to industrialize their machines, workflows, quality and materials to the standards of increasingly powerful customers. At International Manufacturing Show 2022 (IMTS), the growth that has taken place in the sector has been event driven, with AM representing a small but much more mature part of the show.

@3dprintdotcomThe AM pavilion at IMTS is even bigger than it was in 2018. translation: 3D printing makes♬ GASLIGHT – INJI

With this in mind, it was possible to see how far 3D printing has come, but also what is happening to integrate the technology into the wider manufacturing industry. It was more obvious with HP unveiling of its first commercial Metal Jet system.

HP’s new metal 3D printer

HP first announced the development of its metal binder jetting technology, Metal Jet, at IMTS 2018. So this year marked four years of development for the process. At a press luncheon, Ramon Pastor, global head and general manager of 3D Metals at HP, explained that the company started by offering what was essentially a modification of the HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) system for polymers in as an alpha machine for partners to assist in the development of commercial metal 3D printing technology.

Among these partners was Schneider-Electric, a French multinational energy management and automation company with 2021 revenue of €28.91 billion. Over four years, the partners, along with service provider Metal Jet GKN, were able to mature the technology enough to mass-produce a filter for Schneider that would improve the energy efficiency of 690 V power circuit breakers, while reducing damage. caused by any potential malfunction. of the device. Outside of lunch, HP showcased many other applications, including medical devices and golf club heads.

Parts made with the Metal Jet S100 3D printer.

While implementing such technology may not be entirely straightforward, we can imagine that if Metal Jet’s deployment matches the pace of MJF, adoption will be rapid and wide. Just as HP’s lead in this regard has led to a flurry of activity around MJF, there has been growth in metal binder jetting from Desktop Metal, Markforged and GE. We’ll also see increased automation, with partner HP AMT possibly getting into post-processing metal binder jetting parts.

Overall, HP could very well enable mass manufacturing of 3D-printed metal parts in a way that wasn’t possible before, just as it has done with polymers.

Improving metal 3D printing on a powder bed

As HP sparks renewed interest in metal binder jetting, companies like Bike3D and JEOL have given metal powder bed fusion (PBF) companies a boost to increase the quality associated with their own processes.

While Velo3D exhibits the ability to 3D print metal parts with minimal support, companies like 3D Systems and AddUp have both demonstrated the same capability through changes in software and process control. Meanwhile, JEOL presented its vision for Electron Beam PBF (E-PBF), which is just one of a growing number of players seeking to disrupt Arcam/GE’s stranglehold on this technology sector. . This portends a segment-wide improvement in the overall quality of PBF.

Automation of the 3D printing factory

As these metal 3D printing trends develop, other technologies will need to develop around these processes to enable an automated workflow. This is where the Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) of Oqton and Siemens will come into play. Due to the digital nature of AM and the early adoption mindset of its users, these companies are looking to apply artificial intelligence from design to shipping in order to ensure global quality and traceability.

Combined with post-processing from companies like AMT and quality control from Additive Assurance, it’s very possible that we’re seeing real down-and-out manufacturing. If tooth space is any indication, it could be sooner rather than later in some areas. Ben Schrauwen of Oqton explained that with dental aligners, for example, the entire manufacturing process can be automated, with Oqton doing everything from planning, nesting and build preparation to to machine management, 3D printing, fault tracking, CNC cutting tracking and laser marking. .

New approaches to the 3D printing market

Along with improving technology, we are also seeing new business models that could challenge traditional approaches to AM in the marketplace. In particular, the industry has developed an application-specific approach, in which the sales engineer acts as a consultant to cultivate specific 3D printing use cases for interested parties. Now new startups are flipping the script.

For example, Mantle is targeting the existing mold making industry with its new P-200 system, which, according to its founder Ted Sorom, is worth $45 million. Rather than trying to impact an entire injection molding business by disrupting the way they make things, Mantle essentially keeps the element of injection molding the same, but changes the way molds are made. . Its unique hybrid technology sees the metal powder deposited and held with a binder before a CNC mill cuts the part. The result is a very high resolution green part. Since the binder evaporates throughout the build, shrinkage rates are less than 10% when the green part is sintered.

3D printed metal molds made by Mantle for injection molding.

As new as this process is, the resulting component need not be different from the types of molds that companies are used to using or making. The main benefit is lower costs and faster turnaround times. Mold makers, injection molding companies and vertically integrated manufacturers can all produce their tools in just days, instead of weeks, at a reduced cost. Additional performance benefits made possible by AM, such as conformal cooling, may be introduced later, but even with the time and cost savings, Mantle provides immediate and accessible benefits to a massive and crucial industry that affects the entire manufacturing supply chain. The overall impact is theoretically far greater than the production of rocket motors by PBF and directed energy depot companies.

Consolidation of 3D printing

With all this development happening in the AM industry, there will be one trend that will be an umbrella for the rest: market consolidation. This was made evident by Nikon, which overtook IMTS with its offer for SLM Solutionsbefore announcing two new investments in Hybrid manufacturing technologies and Optisys. It’s a giant conglomerate taking advantage of a booming industry it could see in its rear view mirror and hijacking it just as its own camera manufacturing vehicle began to break down.

So not only can we expect Nikon to grab other companies that can keep it going, but we can also assume that other similar companies will do the same. Just as HP had done through internal R&D and Xerox had done through acquisitions. The tricky part is guessing what it will look like. Canon must follow suit, due to its own reliance on cameras and printers. What other obsolete industries could use a life raft?

Additionally, we are seeing attempts to vertically integrate supply chains to avoid the disruptions that could result from global turmoil and resource scarcity. For this reason, Nikon not only has a method of making products on demand, via Morf3D, and probably the tools to do so, via SLM, but also a key area of ​​expertise needed to run any modern supply chain: 3D printing of electronic components, via Optisys. He will also have to produce his own raw materials and will meet polymer AM.

However, if we look further, we realize that Nikon has a lot of it too because it’s just a subsidiary of the much bigger Mitsubishi conglomerate. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries not only makes directed energy deposition (DED) metallic 3D printers Electric Mitsubishi), but also metallic powders. Mitsubishi Chemical produces polymers for 3D printing, partnering with AddiFab for a unique injection molding process, while its subsidiary, Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corporationproduct gas for metallic AM systems.

Although these companies are formally separate, they are still informally connected and often jointly owned by various Japanese banks. As DSLRBODIES RemarksIn recent years, the lines behind keiretsu have blurred, mainly due to bank mergers between once keiretsu-specific financial institutions. Additionally, the old strong alliances between the companies have mostly broken down into more informal relationships, although the major keiretsu companies meet once a month behind the scenes to discuss and coordinate their mutual interests. This would include Nikon’s reunion in the Mitsubishi keiretsu.

With that in mind, we can expect similar acts of vertical integration – “self-sufficiency” as macro analyst Matt Kremenetsky has called it. Who, what, where and when are always up in the air. However, we can look to similar giant corporations that act as pillars for their national and international economies. One could even imagine that hidden relationships like those of Mitsubishi are in place.

Feature image courtesy of IMTS.


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