Two weeks ago I was attending a workshop in in Adelaide.
The event on ‘Implementing Additive Manufacturing’ was organized by
The Australian Academy of Technology Sciences and Engineering [ATSE]
Michael Heard from ATSE
was the MC and ‘the driving force’ in organizing the event. I had the great pleasure to meet and talk with Michael the evening before the workshop began. Michael explained to me his aim to educate industry leaders and politicians
about the great potential of Advanced and Additive Manufacturing and the many opportunities for collaboration between industry and institutions of higher education.
Michael is well aware of how important it is to collaborate in order to implement new technologies efficiently.
I was glad to have the opportunity to talk with someone with his level of experience and to also be on the same page
about what is urgently needed to safely and efficiently regrow manufacturing in Australia.
Michael opened the workshop stating numbers that do not look promising:
When it comes to engagement between Australian Businesses and Academia, Australia currently ranks 23 out of 26 OECD countries. Only 3,5 percent of larger businesses and 4,1 percent of SMEs currently collaborate with institutions of higher education.
Bearing this numbers in mind, Michael introduced the speakers; a great mix of experts in Additive Manufacturing from Australia, New Zealand, and Germany.
Eric Klemp from Direct Manufacturing Research Center (DMRC)
part of University of Paderborn in Germany,
provided an overview on the structure and activities of the DMRC.
DMRC is a technology and research hub dedicated to industry collaboration. The founding members were BOEING, EOS, EVONIK. SLM Solutions GmbH and University of Paderborn. Over the last 6 years, DMRC has gained more and more knowledge and got new partners from industry leaders all over the world. Meanwhile there are 18 industrial partner in the consortium, e.g. Siemens, Stratasys, Baker Hughes, John Deere, The LEGO Group, Liebherr, Phoenix Contact and many more, show the global attractiveness of DMRC. The research is being performed by 9 institutes of the University where 11 professors together with 28 fulltime researchers are active only in the field of AM.
The concept of DMRC is to perform collaborate research on AM on a pre-competitive level. Results of all projects are shared between all stakeholders. Board meetings take place every quarter a year, in which IP are discussed, the steering the DMRC is fixed and all general decisions are taken. The influence of each party depends on the type of company membership.
Tier I partners are contributing EUR 100 000 annually and have full exclusivity to the IP of their R&D projects. Further they have a full vote when it comes to making decisions every quarter in the steering committee.
Tier II partners contribute EUR 50 000, have to share one vote with the other Tier II partners and have to make additional contributions when it comes to IPRs.
Tier III partners can become a member with just EUR 5 000 annual contribution and are able to collaborate at DMRC on a general basis.
Eric Klemp only briefly touched generally on the AM technologies, their equipment and testing capabilities DMRC has in house and which is able to access all over the campus of the University.
Rather more he explained why it is a good strategy to collaborate inside and between the different kinds of shareholders. Some of the companies partnered at DMRC don’t have anything in common with each other regarding their products, services and the markets they are in. But some of them are in a competitive field. Fortunately this is not much of a concern as the DMRC is providing a platform to perform fundamental research where each company can build on. Pre-competitive research may sound very theoretical but it isn’t. The companies ensure scope and that the results will drive their developments.
These companies are aware of how many disciplines needs to be covered to apply Additive Manufacturing technologies successfully. Machine capabilities, build strategies, powder qualification and the ageing of materials and their products, needs to be fully understood. Eric mentioned that most critical is the design for Additive Manufacturing. It was also pointed in the other presentation that ‘Design is key’ to a business case involving any Additive Manufacturing technologies.
Eric finished on the note that Henry Ford wasn’t after faster horses – he wanted cars! A nice analogy!
He pointed out: Your own imagination is the key to success!
Chad Henry from CSIRO
was the second speaker.
Chad’s talk was focusing on the activities of the LAB22.
The Lab22 is a state of the art facility is located in Clayton, Victoria.
Lab22 has a lot in common with the DMRC in Germany. But Lab22 has actually more Additive Manufacturing technologies in house. In addition to the laser based direct metal technology (CONCEPTLASER M2), CSIRO is operating an ARCAM A2 Electron Beam System (EBM) and a binder infusion system VX1000 from Voxeljet. This system is predominantly used to create molds for traditional casting systems. Furthermore, Lab22 has the by CSIRO developed Cold Spray Plasma Giken technology and laser based blown powder system from Optomec LENS MR-7. Chad highlighted that this system allows depositing different alloys during the process. He used the example of body armor, where a hard surface needs to break up a incoming projectile and a more ductile alloy like Ti64 has to absorb the impact. So the LENS system can create near net shape parts with gradient properties. Chad explained the pros & cons of the different technologies and pointed out that the aim of LAB22 is to help Australian businesses to learn about AM processes in order to ease their implementation. Businesses can partner with Lab22 to do research in projects and train their staff on machinery before acquiring own equipment. Chad also highlighted some of CSIROs showcases and industry projects done at CSIRO so far.
Since the Lab22 was founded in 2012, the lab has worked together with over 75 entities, 54 percent from industry,
21 in R&D and 25 percent of the projects have been in marketing, media, and education.
Pierse Lincolnand Luis Lima-Marques from The University of Adelaide
presented on how Additive Manufacturing is applied at the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) at The University of AdelaideIn.
2014 the University implemented a PHENIX SYSTEM PSM200. This is a laser based, powder bed metal AM system.
I had the pleasure to visit Luis the day before at the lab the conference. I was impressed with the work performed there. Initially, the system was acquired to manufacture dyes for the extrusion of preforms of glass fibers. Aside from this application the system is used for university and industry projects. People from industry come to The University of Adelaide to learn in workshops about the technology. Pierse and Luis highlighted a project with industry about a design modification of a part. During the redesign, it became obvious that it would be easier building the entire part additively
and not just one component of it. Less surfaces to finish, less joints weakening the overall structure. It is always about understanding the capabilities of AM and taking advantage of it. There are also student projects realized at the IPAS. Pierse and Luis showed a miniature gas turbine what was printed for a student. A design impossible to manufacture at
that scale in any other way.
Bert Wilson from OCEANIA DEFENCE (New Zealand)
was the next speaker.
OCEANIA DEFNCE produces suppressors for firearms using direct metal Additive Manufacturing.
First of all, Bert talked about stigmas of firearms & suppressors and explained that these devices
are commonly not used like in James Bond movies. Bert said the suppressors are usually applied
for shoot training to protect hearing. Bert explained that it was the design that drove him to use
metal additive manufacturing. The internals have complex design features certainly impossible to
produce in any other way. The suppressors are made of Titanium or Inconel alloys, built whole in
one with no need for assembly. Threads have to be created in the process, as they could not
be machined afterwards. Bert explained getting the products to this full-production stage took very
many trials and test builds. Building just sections of the part with intricate features and overhanging
sections which are usually considered impossible to be created by direct metal AM.
Bert said he actually doesn’t know how many design iterations have been done so far but in the end
it doesn’t really matter it means just a different 3D CAD file that has to be prepared and send to the machine.
Warwick Downing from TiDA Limited and
Rapid Advanced Manufacturing Limited – RAM
In May this year I had the pleasure to visit TiDA / RAM in Tauranga.
Check out the blog post on a visit at TiDA/RAM
Warwick started with the history of TiDA and what it took to form this private research organization. TiDA/RAM has all the technical capabilities usually found in way larger organizations. All the analytical equipment required to understand direct laser metal AM processes from the powder to the final component.
All powder batches are checked with particle analyzers. Cross sections can be cut and polished and assessed under a SEM. Tensile bars are added to every build for quality assurances. For years, these bars are tested on TiDAs tensile testing machine. This procedure has created a very comprehensive data archive. Warwick pointed out that none of the tensile test specimens are machined prior testing. This is usual practice as the surface roughness of the as-built specimens are crack initiators. At TiDA / RAM most of the parts built have features which cannot be post machined. Though the specimens are not post machined to get ‘real life data’.
Parts are built on three different machine platforms, just on the one which suits best the job. TiDA/RAM is operating an EOS M270, a SLM280HL and two RENISHAW AM250. Warwick added that at least another two RENISHAW machines are currently on their way. (Financed through private investments.) Aside from this fact, he explained that TiDA / RAMs success is predominantly based on close collaboration of local industry. Warwick mentioned a metal powder manufacturer and a PVD (physical vapor deposition) plant near by.
In addition to the ‘geeky facts’ Warwick also explained how a component made of Titanium can be cheaper than being made from stainless steel.
I appreciated Warwicks analogy of ‘Swiss-Cheese’ and laser based metal fusion, meaning that adding complexity in form
of holes reduces volume and process time, making parts cheaper. He added that sometimes this is hard for the customers to understand as they are so used to pay more for additional geometrical features.
My favourite statement of the day was, that he wouldn’t have bought the first machine they got.
This is really rare to hear that someone officially states that the machine chosen was not the best.
I think the whole AM industry and academia should be more open and sharing of not only their highlights and successes but of areas for improvement and failures as well. To me, this is also a way of collaboration as it could save a lot of time and money.
Andrew J. Sysouphat Aerospace Engineer at BAE Systems
Andrew is the lead for Additive Technologies at BAE Systems Australia. He hadn’t had much time for his speech but he was able to provide the audience with a broad overview on BAE Systems activities in Additive Manufacturing. Andrew explained that BAE Systems had been looking into AM technologies since 2006 already. BAE has been applying multiple additive technologies for several years for rapid tooling applications and making jigs. Direct metal additive manufacturing is certainly on BAEs agenda but this has to be a very holistic approach. In aero industry it is a long way from the first design sketches to a post-machined component ready for takeoff.
This video recording of John Dunstan (Head of BAE Systems Agile Product Development Center) speaking at AM 2014 TCT conference provided a very detailed summary on BAEs future plans on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KygL_SsdKew
BAE Systems Australia
Directly following these presenters was a panel session
to give the audience an opportunity to ask questions.
People wanted to know how AM is applied for tooling applications. It was explained that Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is commonly applied for making tools & jigs in manufacturing. FDM is even to produce tools for sheet metal forming. Direct metal technologies such as SLM & DMLS are used to create injection-molding tools with con-formal cooling features to reduces cycle times and increase output. It was added that polyjet-technologies are applied to create injection-molding tools for production of small series of 20 – 40 parts in the real end use materials. Furthermore, one audience member asked if students in Universities do get the right access to hard and software. The panel agreed that there are the right tools, in form of equipment and software, at the Universities, and the students do get the required qualifications. But it is up to the CEOs to identify the potential of these technologies and show the will to make the investments needed.
Last but not least Michael Heard welcomed Minister Kyam Maher
Member of the Legislative Council
Minister for Manufacturing and Innovation
Minister for Automotive Transformation
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation
Minister Maher confirmed the challenges ahead, having a rapidly decreasing manufacturing sector in South Australia.
He pointed out the importance of Advanced Manufacturing and the need for collaboration.
Concluding it was a great event on Additive Manufacturing technologies.
There was certainly a common understanding that these technologies can be utilized to push Innovation and revive Australian manufacturing. But it will require a joined push from industry, academia and the the government to make this happen.