New manufacturing technology

High-tech innovation to help Australian manufacturers grow

July 2010

Revolutionary new industrial technology called Additive Manufacturing promises to cut production time and costs for a range of industries.

 

Contract manufacturer Formero Pty Ltd has introduced Australia’s first million dollar Additive Manufacturing system and created new capability to its Melbourne manufacturing facility.

The selective laser melting (SLM) system uses a sophisticated and highly advanced form of “3D additive manufacturing” to produce functional metal parts directly from 3 dimensional computer aided designs (CAD). Parts are grown layer by layer from powdered metals without the need for time-consuming traditional manufacturing processes.   The system uses commercially available metallic powders to produce near fully dense metal parts in materials including titanium, stainless steel and tool steels.

Metal parts can be produced in a few days compared to the weeks, or months, it takes to produce parts using traditional manufacturing practices.

Formero’s Managing Director, Simon Marriott said: “From August, engineers and designers have tremendous opportunity to viably manufacture custom or short-run part production.  In the past this has been a challenge to achieve and will radically accelerate production-cycles to levels never before seen in Australia”.

Marriott said two relatively distinct markets are developing for products made by additive manufacturing.  One consists of professionals and includes the medical, dental, aerospace, automotive and motorsport industries.  The other is the broad and interesting consumer market.  Examples are home accessories, toys, game avatars, and fashion products.  The global market for additive manufacturing technologies was worth $1.5 billion in 2008 and is set to double by 2012.


 “We have received very strong interest from industries where complex, quality precision metal parts are in high demand,” says Marriott.

In the US and Europe, companies like Siemens, Phonak and Invisalign use similar machines to produce hearing aids and dental implants. Boeing uses it to  make parts for civilian and military aircraft.

 

Formero  showcased the advantages of the new technology with a series of national events titled ‘Factory of the Future’ featuring international manufacturing expert Terry Wohlers.  His US-based consulting firm works closely with manufacturers worldwide to identify the best approaches to rapid product development. The 'Factory of the Future' road show, held last month in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane  attracted over 600 attendees from a variety of manufacturing and research organizations around Australia.

 

Custome made parts produced with the SLM technology

 

Background


Additive Manufacturing


Additive Manufacturing is the process of producing parts layer by layer rather than removing material, as is the case with conventional machining.

Each layer is melted to the exact geometry defined by a 3D computer aided design (CAD) model.
Additive Manufacturing allows for building parts with very complex geometries without any sort of tools or fixtures, and without producing any waste material.


The process provides great benefits for the entire production value chain.
The geometrical freedom allows engineers and designers to create parts as they have envisioned them without manufacturing constraints. This can be translated to extreme lightweight designs, reduced part counts or improved bone in-growth for medical implants. It is also a fast production route from CAD to physical finished part with a very high material utilization. It eliminates the need to keep expensive castings or forgings on stock. In addition to the cost-effectiveness, additive manufacturing is very energy-efficient and environmentally friendly due to its efficient use of materials.

 

Selective Laser Melting (SLM)

Selective Laser melting (SLM) is an additive metals manufacturing technology with a presence in medical Orthopaedics and Dental through to Aerospace and high technology engineering and electronics sectors.

The process uses a high powered laser to fuse fine metal powders together layer by layer direct from CAD data to create functional metal parts. After each layer a powder recoater system deposits a fresh layer of powder in thicknesses ranging from 20 to 100 microns. The system uses commercially available gas atomised metallic powders to produce fully dense metal parts in materials including Titanium, Stainless Steel, Cobalt Chrome and Tool Steel.