Tackling the Materials and Processing Challenges of Additive Manufacturing

By Fabian Wanke

Industry Trends

"Tackling the materials and processing challenges". Under this motto, 300 international experts from research and industry met at the 3rd International Symposium Additive Manufacturing in Dresden, Germany.

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Dresden is one of the leading European research and innovation locations for industrial additive manufacturing applications.  A good example is the AGENT-3D innovation network, led by the Fraunhofer IWS, where more than 120 partners from industries work together to push the technology further.

Research and Developments

At this year's ISAM, around forty presentations covered the latest research results and industrial developments, as well as the challenges Additive Manufacturing (AM) needs to overcome before it becomes firmly established in industrial production.  For example, Stefanie Brickwede from Deutsche Bahn AG presented the advantages and innovative approaches offered by additive manufacturing for mobility, especially rail traffic, in her lecture, "We Print to Drive: Mobility goes Additive".  According to Ms. Brickwede, the use of additive processes will result in high savings in the multi-digit million range in warehousing and spare parts procurement.  She underlined that AM is of the upmost importance for Deutsche Bahn, especially in the management of spare parts for older trains.  For this reason, DB founded the “Mobility goes Additive” network.

Cooperation and Knowledge Exchange

Most of the speakers emphasized the importance and necessity of cooperation and the open exchange of knowledge to stabilize and improve processes.  Ingomar Kelbassa from Siemens under-lined in his presentation that cooperation is the key to success today.  Therefore, Siemens, like other companies, is working closely with universities, machine builders and end users to make AM a long-term success and not just a hype.  He also pointed out that on the one hand Siemens is an AM end user and on the other hand a holistic automation supplier for the AM industry.  He clearly stated, that Siemens will not become an AM machinery builder, like e.g. GE or Mitsubishi are today

Materials and Processing Challenges of Additive Manufacturing

challenges of Additive Manufacturing camblog2.JPGThe call for a greater variety of raw materials was very strong, especially regarding metal powders, which today are still negligible and do not meet all the requirements of researchers and industry. Most participants are convinced, that a majority of future 3D printing applications will require completely new materials or the adaptation of existing ones to the requirements of additive manufacturing. A consistent high quality of powders, be it in terms of e.g. grain size, avoidance of impurities, is still a major challenge. Only a consistent, very high quality of the base materials enable repeatable, consistent processes resulting in high-quality parts.

International Standards

As in most industries, the need for international standards is hotly debated. "Openness" is another hot topic that played an important role during the discussions. Today several of the leading AM machinery builders, but also start-ups, try to increase their margin by expanding their role in the value chain. Many of these companies are challenging the industry by selling both printers and materials in a closed system and make the end user depend on one supplier. In his lecture Patrik Ohldin from Freemelt emphasized the importance, advantages and necessity of open source. He is convinced that open source accelerates many technologies and can be a catalyst for AM. Especially in R&D, if something is released under an open source license, it allows users and researchers far more possibilities and thus leads to faster developments and innovation than stipulated by copy-right law. 

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