What was the last thing you printed? While for many of us it’s likely to be a work document or a pile of handouts, the research engineers at the Wärtsilä Hub for Additive Manufacturing (WHAM) has moved into another dimension – printing critical engine components and leading the way in 3D printing utilisation.
3D printing, the more well-known name for the additive manufacturing process, promises to revolutionise component production. It is already being used in industries as diverse as aerospace and healthcare and is a key element of the on-demand economy, where components are manufactured only when needed, reducing warehousing costs and cutting down delivery times. It can also make manufacturing easier, cheaper and faster, opening up the opportunity to produce components on-site, eliminating the need for transportation and therefore reducing transport-based emissions.
General Motors announced the opening of the 15,000-square-foot Additive Industrialization Center, dedicated to productionizing 3D printing technology in the automotive industry.
General Motors recently opened its new, 15,000-square-foot Additive Industrialization Center (AIC), dedicated to 3D printing technology in the automotive industry. The AIC is the capstone of GM’s expertise and increased investment in 3D printing over the last several years.
“The core component of GM’s transformation is becoming a more agile, innovative company, and 3D printing will play a critical role in that mission,” says Audley Brown, GM director of additive design and materials engineering. “Compared to traditional processes, 3D printing can produce parts in a matter of days versus weeks or months, at a significantly lower cost.”
One of struggle, one of anguish, one of a technology that may have previously failed to live up to such lofty promise, perhaps now finding its role in the manufacturing landscape.
Though there were plenty of businesses in the 3D printing industry that had significant issues to encounter – GE in its AM-related goodwill impairment charges or Stratasys and 3D Systems in their workforce reductions – the technology itself comes out of 2020 with an enhanced reputation.
It was responsible for millions of parts produced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to alleviate slightly the pressure that medical professionals and procurement personnel were under, while allowing manufacturers to pivot from what they typically produced to what, in that moment, we needed them to.
WHAM, the Wärtsilä Hub for Additive Manufacturing, is now using 3D printing to create a critical metal component for Wärtsilä engines that has been successfully tested at full output. Work has been done in partnership with global engineering company Etteplan, and the success of the testing clearly demonstrates that 3D printing is ready for a wider range of applications in the marine industry.
“We were confident enough to put the part in the engine and the results spoke for themselves – the engine always tells the truth,” said Andreas Hjort, General Manager, Smart Design. “The design freedom of 3D printing is opening up a number of opportunities to add value, in terms of both new products and improving the performance of existing ones.”
For the uninitiated, 3D printers typically work by melting plastic filaments or other base materials such as nanoparticles, metals, thermoplastics etc. and then stacking the melted materials layer upon layer to form an object. When the plastic or other base materials are heated to melt they release volatile compounds into the air near the printer and the object.
Thyssenkrupp and Wilhelmsen are collaborating on leveraging on thyssenkrupp’s deep expertise in AM alongside Wilhelmsen’s in-depth maritime expertise and direct ongoing experience in understanding the needs of vessel fleet managers.
Based on current data, maritime fleets spend approximately $13 billion a year on spare parts. With 50% of these vessels being older than 15 years, the availability of parts are limited. This makes the fulfillment of orders for maritime spare parts costly and complicated, and in fact, supply chain overheads involved may oftentimes far outstrip the cost of the part itself.
Louisa Allen explores additive manufacturing solutions for the energy and oil & gas industries
Innovations brought about by 3D printing have largely focused on industrial applications. We read about how car manufacturers are using this technology to build custom parts and tools more efficiently and at a lower cost. The aeronautics industry is using additive manufacturing to create lightweight components to help boost fuel economy. 3D printing has also enabled the sector to streamline the supply chain as well as product parts on-demand. Both of these actions help reduce lead times and lower operations costs.
There has also been quite a buzz about 3D printing and its impact on the healthcare industry, particularly its influence on patient-centered medical care. But the applications of this revolutionary technology does not limit itself to these fields. Case in point, the energy, oil, and gas industries are now looking to adopt additive manufacturing to help them harness our natural resources. Below are just a few of the solutions that are now being implemented by big companies such as Chevron and Shell Global.
Patent attorney Thomas Prock explores the threats posed by additive manufacturing to automotive intellectual property portfolios
The world has progressively digitised in recent decades and the pace of change is increasing, changing products and industries beyond recognition. The ready and rapid adoption of digital technology in all parts of society is testament to the benefits digital technology provides. At the heart of these new technologies is the management of data flows, be that for the purpose of optimising manufacturing processes or assisting people in the performance of everyday tasks or even automating them altogether.
The automotive industry is no stranger to digitisation, and the particular intellectual property (IP) challenges it brings. Originally, IP conflicts were between rival automotive innovators, and solutions such as cross-licensing IP were relatively easy to agree and cost effective. More recently however, Non-Practicing Entities – entities that have no intention to make or sell the invention covered by IP – have bought up IP rights with the sole purpose of extracting royalty payments from automotive companies. The frequency of such cases has been exacerbated by the digitisation of the automotive industry and the surge in innovation, and need for IP, in the automotive data communication field.
Lunar landers could use 3D-printed rocket engine parts that bring down manufacturing costs and production times.
NASA recently hot-fire tested a pair of 3D-printed components designed for rocket engines, a combustion chamber and nozzle. They are 3D printed out of a high-strength, hydrogen-resistant alloy and should withstand the combustion environments that until now only traditionally manufactured metal structures were able to.
The high-strength iron-nickel superalloy nozzle was printed using a method called laser powder directed energy deposition, which deposits and melts the metal powder to create freeform structures. This method let NASA turn out small- and large-scale components.