On my second day of my stopover in New Zealand I headed South-East about three hours out of Auckland.
Warwick Downing from TiDA Limited / Rapid Advanced Manufacturing (R.A.M.) Limited welcomed me in Tauranga.
TiDA / R.A.M. is home to Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) systems.
To my surprise I spotted a brand new RENISHAW AM250 system. I was aware of two other systems, an EOS M270 and
an SLM Solutions SLM280HL but RENISHAW’s system had just been installed a few days prior to my visit.
So it just got filled with Nickel-based Inconel material and the parameter development had started.
So I took a shaky video with my iphone, cheeck it out https://youtu.be/4IBg17xUnYQ
Of course it is interesting to see a facility operating three laser based powder fusion systems from three different machine manufacturers.
Especially at such a remote location, where the support from the OEM is about 20 000 kilometers away.
But it is actually a common thing what can be found not only at unis and research facilities. Service bureaus, as well as larger companies tend to acquire systems from different machine manufacturers. I discussed with Warwick and we agreed that every systems has it’s stronger and lets say “less stronger” points. Due to different powder feeding mechanisms, the machines do react differently to the same materials. A metal powder that is easy to process on one machine may not work on another machine.
But one machine is better to clean making material changes more easy, another machine allows handling reactive materials more safely than the other. All these constraints point out that there is no “best machine” as it is always about “the best machine” for a specific application. Warwick showed me parts and applications TiDA / R.A.M. is producing for their about 150 clients predominantly based in New Zealand. But there also overseas customers making use of the expertise from Tauranga. TiDA / R.A.M. has very good analytically equipment I have seen only in way larger organizations before. These capabilities contribute to an in-depth understanding of the special metallurgy created by laser based powder bed fusion technology. This understanding is essential and key for any post-treatments such as annealing or HIPing, affecting mechanical properties especially long term.
During my visit a PhD-student was undertaking parameter development for a new material. He was busy scheduling the trials for the weekend what showed me the workload and the high machine utilization. To me it was great to see commercial activities as R&D activities so closely connected in one facility and I am looking forward to hear more about the cutting edge research from Tauranga (NZ).