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Additive manufacturing: the technological revolution of metal printing

Categories: ZCMIM NewsStars: 3StarsVisit: -Release time: 2019-09-26 08:53:00
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In February 2017, Siemens launched the gas turbine blade produced by metal printing technology, indicating that a full range of metal printing technology from preliminary design to production and post-processing will bring significant changes.

Siemens first developed a gas turbine blade sample based on metal printing technology and tested the resistance to high pressure (including physical pressure, high temperature and high centrifugal force). After installing the sample into turbine and successfully testing, Siemens began to mass produce metal-printed turbine blades and develop the aftermarket of turbine components.

Through the application of metal printing technology and the internal integration of production links, Siemens mainly benefited from the following: 

Facilitate continuous improvement of design and optimize turbine blade performance;

Comprehensively master core intellectual property rights

It eliminates many complicated process such as casting and punching in the traditional production process

Eliminate supplier link and improve product profit margin

With the application of metal printing technology, the entire production cycle of Siemens is only 18 months, which is greatly shortened compared with traditional production process. In addition, the metal printing technology of parts and components can also support the engineering design of other products, and prepare for the expansion of future metal printing product category.

In addition, Siemens has successfully applied metal printing technology to the maintenance of turbine nozzle. Prior to this, most of the sprinkler heads had to be replaced for maintenance, and a new sprinkler head had to be installed using traditional methods. Today, with the application of metal printing technology, only a small part of the nozzle needs to be replaced, and then the metal printing parts can be filled. The maintenance cycle is shortened from 44 weeks to 4 weeks, which greatly improves the supply efficiency of customers and reduces the maintenance cost

GE is another pioneer in bringing metal printing to full production. It has invested $1.5 billion in metal-printing development, including $50 million in a plant in Alabama that will make metal-printing LEAP jet engine fuel nozzles (35,000 nozzles are expected by 2020).Compared with a traditional fuel nozzle made of 20 parts, the metal printing technology produces a one-piece fuel nozzle with 25 percent less weight and five times longer service life. The reduced weight of nozzles has resulted in a significant drop in fuel costs for airline customers.

While the metal printing market is still in its infancy, the success of companies such as GE, Siemens and Michelin/ Fives 'addup in metal printing is not unique. Many kinds of metals are widely used in aerospace, automobile, navigation, medicine and dentistry. However, metal printing technology is now mostly used for small and medium-sized complex high-value components that do not require large volumes of their own, as in the case of GE and Siemens.

One reason is that powder bed fusion is still the mainstream, selectively melting the metallic powder layer area through thermal energy. Most metal printers on the market (about 80%) use this technology.

Then an emerging metal printing technology, directed energy deposition, is on the rise. Compared with traditional powder bed fusion technology, the technology is more efficient and can produce larger and more complex parts at a lower unit cost, which will further promote metal printing technology innovation.

In the short term, metal printing technology may not be practical for mass production of industrial metal parts, nor is it likely to completely replace traditional manufacturing processes, but the development of technology is opening up more industrial opportunities. In the future, many processes under traditional production technology will be further reduced and integrated, resulting in the entire industry value chain simplification.

For OEM manufacturers, owning a suite of sophisticated software is important for product design and process optimization. It is also important to have a comprehensive capability across the entire value chain, which can be achieved through strategic cooperation between enterprises. This will be a progressive industry, requiring manufacturers to re-examine their business models and identify the core competitiveness request by 3D printing technology.


Keywords in the article: additive manufacturing metal printing
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