Award-winning OEM GE Additive has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the New South Wales (NSW) Government in Australia to develop a 3D printing aerospace centre at the Western Sydney Aerotropolis.
Today, the University of Strathclyde’sAdvanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC), Scotland, and Airbus Defence and Space launched a project that may see additive manufacturing applied to the production of fuel tanks. The project to be undertaken between the two partners aims to reshore space propellant tank manufacture in the UK. Independent welding research organization TWI has been enlisted to help decipher which method is best suited for competitively producing the tanks. Efforts are being funded by the European Space Agency (ESA).
Renato Bellarosa, Head of Tank Products and Research and Technology (R&T) Manager at Airbus DS, comments, “Propellant tanks are key strategic items that we currently must procure from Germany or the United States, and we are working to re-establish the capability to make them in the UK. We had this in the past, but it was lost when the parent company of the firm involved took the production back to Germany.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are scaling their adoption of 3D printing technology, especially in the construction sector
Few industries are witnessing widespread adoption of 3D printing technology, which represents only 0.1 percent of the total $13.1 trillion value added through the global manufacturing industry.
Advisory firm Moody’s Investors Service says that 3D printing technology is used in niche applications and will help boost companies’ profitability and market shares in a limited number of industries.
Manufacturers of consumer goods such as eyewear and footwear are among the industries with the strongest near-term growth prospects for the adoption of 3D printing. Other industries that will benefit include aerospace, medical devices, automotive and capital equipment, but to varying degrees, according to Moody’s report.
The Center for Additive Manufacturing at Auburn University, Alabama, is now home to a $1.5 million x-ray CT system. The new machine is to be applied to the nondestructive testing (NDT) of 3D printed parts, essential to the university’s programs to produce “mission critical” parts for aerospace and aviation industries.
The system was acquired with a grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Professor Bart Prorok, Director of Auburn’s Analytical Microscopy Center, is principal investigator on the NIST grant, and has called the x-ray CT system “a real game changer” for the center’s additive manufacturing research.
“With this new system,” Professor Prorok explains, “we can take two-dimensional x-ray pictures of a metal structure for real-time process monitoring or a series of 2D images in 360 degrees of rotation that are then reconstructed into a 3D representation of the build.”
Recently, many new 3D software startup companies entered the market offering various solutions mainly for industrial users. It goes from decision-support solutions for better utilization of 3D printing, generative design/topology optimization, to workflow management and parts IP protection. Each of them seems to be focused on specific challenges heavy users face, challenges that will only increase in the foreseeable future as 3D printing moves from prototyping to manufacturing.
Why is there a need for such 3D software solutions and what are the gaps they are trying to fill? And where does it position the large software conglomerates that have been the main players in the market for many years? Let’s understand the bigger picture first.
You’ve probably heard of the technology hype cycle, which goes like this: Something new is developed and everybody thinks it’s going to change the world, but it falls short so everybody gives up on it. Finally, when nobody’s looking, the real potential slowly develops.
Over the years I’ve followed 3D printing through the first two stages: “It changes everything!” and then “It’s a complete dud!”
Now, judging from a conference going on at Dartmouth College right now, 3D printing is moving into the third stage: “Sometimes it’s very useful in ways we didn’t expect.”
Additive manufacturing is no longer just for prototypes. Its increasing popularity and technical capabilities have pushed it into position to change the way manufacturers manage their spare parts inventory.
No matter how technologies change, or what new innovations break into the mainstream, the basic goals of manufacturing remain the same: Reduce unplanned downtime, reduce costs, eliminate unnecessary waste, etc. How fortunate it is that 3D printing (a.k.a. additive manufacturing) is one of those cool, innovative technologies that is finding itself a very nice spot in the realm of day-to-day cost and time savings. Not only can it be used to produce interesting and previously impossible designs, it has also become a useful way to change spare parts management.
When a system goes down, making the repairs needed to get it back up and running can be time-consuming. Even more so if the part that needs replacing is no longer readily available. With the right program in place, additive manufacturing can build that part on demand—whether through reverse engineering, digital files from the component supplier, or perhaps through the supplier itself.
In recent years, advances in the printing technology, in the materials that can be used, and the software control of the end-to-end workflow have fundamentally changed the way parts can be made with additive manufacturing, says John Nanry, co-founder and chief product officer at Fast Radius, which provides 3D printing services.