Optomec has recorded more than 10 million turbine blade refurbishments with its metal 3D printing technology after conducting a recent customer survey.
The company says it now has more than 100 customer installations of its metal 3D printing systems specifically for gas turbine components repair, with installations made at leading gas turbine original equipment manufacturers (OEM) in the aviation and energy markets, such as GE, as well as many third-party maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) shops.
At these companies, Optomec has installed its LENS brand Metal Additive 3D printers and Huffman brand 5-axis Laser Cladders, both based on Directed Energy Deposition (DED) technology. Customers are said to value Optomec’s proficiencies in adaptvie control software, controlled inert atmosphere processing for superior metallurgy, turn-key repair process recipes and automation solutions that facilitate higher throughput batch processing.
As a person in the additive manufacturing media, well-meaning texts from friends and family members containing 3D printing news stories are always a good indication of the technology’s footing in the mainstream conversation. So, as the coronavirus pandemic hit and 3D printers were poised as the solution to pressing supply chain challenges for crucial items on the frontline, you can imagine, my inbox was pretty full.
Hospitals brought 3D printers in-house to support production of protective medical equipment, universities loaned their additive capabilities to print parts for local healthcare providers, and 3D printing equipment manufacturers became service providers overnight.
How that awareness and momentum might extend to the coming months and indeed years, particularly as this health crisis remains, is up for debate, and yesterday a trio of panellists across various industry segments came together to discuss what that could look like.
“Just because the field is progressing does not mean we have grounds for complacency.”
All students of the environment learn the three cardinal rules of sustainability: reduce, reuse and recycle. And as we look to the future, pundits and thought leaders routinely point to 3D printing as a solution for improving and streamlining manufacturing to something leaner, greener and more environmentally friendly.
Farms and factories require massive emission outputs and loads of energy. Small polymer 3D printing systems, on the other hand, are fuelled with little effort. But additive manufacturing is not a magic bullet. Is 3D printing more sustainable than traditional manufacturing methods? It depends on how you look at it.
In many ways, additive manufacturing is significantly more sustainable, and more reasonable for the environment and the earth, than traditional manufacturing methods. Let us count the ways.
Every sector is in the midst of a digital transformation journey adopting the latest technologies worldwide.
Sectors such as supply chain, manufacturing, logistics and transportation are currently facing an extreme shift in the adoption of new technologies. Not only has the current pandemic been a catalyst in adoption, technology is currently in the midst of its biggest transformation yet. New technology innovations have enabled us to automate processes, manage the supply chain and track data using blockchain.
3D printing has been around for over 20 years but has only recently been adopted by large-scale markets. This technology allows for companies to create specific devices or products in-house using specialised materials while minimising cost. This means independence for the supply chain and manufacturing industries as well as reducing delivery times and eliminating the need to store a large number of products in a warehouse.
3D printing is a globally used language meaning that digital files can be sent from anywhere and then printed locally, allowing for on-demand files to be printed immediately reducing inventory build-up and costs. This streamlined approach only brings positives to the manufacturing and supply chain sectors, and boasts huge benefits such as dealing with less risk, having more control and adding agility to their product lifecycle.
We couldn’t agree more with the anonymous writer who penned The World Needs to Grow a Pair to Stop China.
But not only must we stop China, we must also protect our own interests and recreate American Self-Reliance. Sadly, the situation described in How Not to Lose Your IP When Developing a Product with Your China Factory is all too common. But there is a homegrown solution that is faster, safer and more cash flow friendly than ordering containers from China. The solution is additive manufacturing, a/k/a 3D printing, which was invented by an American, Dr, Chuck Hull, in 1986.
The United States has had the opportunity to fortify its Self-Reliance for over 30 years and it’s been more or less squandered in the name of globalization, which has mostly been defined to mean China manufacturers pretty much everything for the rest of the world. If we’re morally obligated to do anything it’s to reestablish the self-sufficiency on which America was founded. Not the kind where you can’t get medical supplies during a pandemic. We must cease to be at the mercy of a country like China.
A Stanford computer scientist, Roy Amara, noted in the 1960s that “we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run”. When it comes to 3D printing, it could certainly be argued that he was right.
A promise that could be fulfilled
3D printing, sometimes referred to as additive manufacturing, is a technology that is evolving fast and has not yet reached its full potential when it comes to decentralising production. It could very well offer the answer to the addiction the world has to the supply chain – simply by removing it from the equation. Now, 3D printing is only used for toy models and prototyping and it has not reached far beyond that.
The upcoming Additive Industrialization Center will develop know-how for direct production of 3D-printed parts.
3D printing has been crucial to the launch of General Motors’ halo Corvette sport sports car and was crucial in the company’s ability to pivot to producing medical equipment in response to the COVID-19 virus, but the company has even bigger plans for the technology coming later this year.
GM printed 17,000 face shields with its additive manufacturing equipment and printed the tooling for the injection molds that have now created 250,000 more shields. Before that, the team building the first mid-engine Corvette prototype relied on 75 percent printed parts to assemble the car for testing. This faster process sped the car’s development and pointed the way for future new car development projects.
It is a common belief that you can make almost anything you want when it comes to 3D printing.
Bits and pieces ranging from a splint for a broken arm, a bulldozer part that has split or cracked, to a malfunctioning part on a navy ship patrolling high seas in the Middle East, can be remade with relative ease compared to a traditional replacement.
The 3D printing process, also known as additive manufacturing, is currently being adopted to solve some of Australia’s supply shortages during COVID-19.
Industry organisations such as the Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC), CSIRO and industrial-scale additive manufacturing company Titomic are at the forefront of promoting 3D printing technologies and advocating for its growth.
IMCRC CEO David Chuter said 3D printing, particularly for plastics, has never been more relevant.
3D printing is the essence of tech for good. Over the next decade it will be crucial to our ability to solve the climate crisis and it has huge potential to lessen the impact of manufacturing on the planet.
But the business case for embracing 3D printing is just as strong. The technology has the potential to transform every industry and change the way we work and live in the future. Within the manufacturing sector it will play a significant role in reducing waste, challenging global supply chains and offering greater flexibility in the manufacturing process.
Last year, the world experienced unparalleled growth in the 3D printing market. Entrepreneurs have clamored to enter this space for the last five years, competing to develop new software and applications. The venture capital market raised huge funds, to the sum of over $1.1 billion, by 3D printing start-ups in 2019 alone. We are already seeing unprecedented adoption rates and aftermarket supply chain growth.
Oil company X had problems this spring. It was time for field maintenance, but company X couldn’t go ahead with it because it needed spare parts that weren’t coming anytime soon. Coronavirus-prompted lockdowns were breaking down international supply chains. Refinery Y had the same problem. It was maintenance time, and maintenance could not begin because of that same disruption to the supply chain. Refinery Y had to delay its maintenance, risking outages.
The problems of X and Y are very real and also dangerous. They also reveal one of the less pleasant aspects of the globalized economy: an overdependence on long international supply chains. But there is an alternative to these long supply chains: additive manufacturing or 3D printing.