The Frontiers of Additive Manufacturing: Saving Supply Chains with WAM


Australian-based additive manufacturing or 3D printing technologies can solve some of these significant challenges, particularly for industrial and large-scale parts supply, explains AML3D in this edition of our Frontiers in additive manufacturing series.

The world has changed. The past three years have seen a level of supply chain disruption and consequent impact on manufacturing not seen in generations. The COVID-19 pandemic and more recent geopolitical uncertainty have led manufacturing, defense and technology industries to source materials and products locally to reduce the risk of supply constraints.

Purchasing and supply chain management had to quickly reassess and pivot to new reliable sources of supply, ensure greater resilience of supply chains and reduce excessively large and capital-intensive inventories that are also expensive to maintain.

Australian-based additive manufacturing or 3D printing technologies can solve some of these significant challenges, especially for industrial and large-scale parts supply. According to American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), seven categories of additive manufacturing technologies are ideally suited for use in manufacturing. Each category has several industrial processes, varying according to the materials used and the technology of the machine for the production.

ARCEMY® from AML3D, a large-scale Wire Additive Manufacturing (WAM®) industrial system.

There are currently 18 metal additive manufacturing technologies available for manufacturing. Assessing the appropriate technology for manufacturing depends on the size of the part or component, the material required, and the relevant industry standards and certification requirements.

In Australia, the large-scale metal 3D printing capability is led by AML3D Limited. With its technology center located in Adelaide, South Australia, the AML3D team is at the forefront of large-scale metal 3D printing with its patented Wire Additive Manufacturing (WAM) process.®), leading to massive changes in the industrial parts supply chain.

AML3D customers in aerospace, defense, manufacturing, mining, and oil & gas are seeing superior gains, beating the challenging timelines of traditional manufacturing by engaging in additive manufacturing of thread.

In a recent announcement, AML3D shared that the advantages of AML3D’s technology over traditional manufacturing were a key consideration for ExxonMobil to place an order for what will become the world’s largest 3D printed metal high-pressure vessel for use. commercial. With a traditional manufacturing time of 12 months, now 12 weeks, WAM® solves the problem that supply chain constraints impose on high value critical parts.

Reducing lead times has a positive impact on business operations. With no shortage of certified high quality wire feedstock, the delays often seen with sourcing billets or tooling for casting are negated, with local manufacturing locally sweetening the deal.

In addition, the just-in-time printing office ̶ contract manufacturing ̶ Service frees up capital, allowing the business to minimize inventory while ensuring that plant or operations maintenance and support programs are managed effectively and efficiently.

Time savings aren’t the only savings achieved with additive manufacturing technologies such as WAM®. Cost savings, both economic and ecological, are also achieved.

Direct costs related to materials, labor and overhead are a challenge for the manufacturing industry at all levels. The rising cost of materials and factory operations, including rent and electricity, is forcing organizations to consider their entire value chain; Incidentally, this provides an opportunity for large-scale metal 3D printing in the supply chain.

An example is an AML3D project delivered for a client based in Queensland at the end of 2021. The client approached AML3D after seeing a fourfold increase in manufacturing of a lifting device. With the need to replace a minimum of six units per year, the customer sought a competitively priced alternative route. Additive wire manufacturing provided a faster delivery time, but in this situation the technology could also provide economic savings by making the lifting shackles on par with pre-COVID prices.

Cost savings are also realized with expensive and exotic materials such as titanium, INVAR and nickel alloys.

AML3D Materials and Production Engineer visually inspects a lifting device printed by WAM for heavy industry.

All additive manufacturing technologies are experiencing reductions in buy-to-fly ratios. Additive wire manufacturing uses less material due to its near net process. In an internal case study, to see how far material waste savings could be taken, AML3D produced a custom 316 stainless steel propeller that saved 95% material waste compared to machining from billets.

Lean manufacturing is achieved by reducing the input of physical materials and the energy required to manufacture a single part. For example, when printing a part with ER70S, mild carbon steel, with AML3D’s robotic welding technology, approximately 9 kW are used during welding, consuming 1.7 kWh* per kg of printed metal , putting the WAM® process before casting techniques. By comparison, a typical cast steel product uses about 2.75 kWh per kg.

Quality is the next topic raised after learning that WAM provides positive ecological and economic reductions. Is there a quality sacrifice? No. The porosity issues often seen in casting are negated with the additive metal layering of the molten wire. With a range of parameters that can be managed, including the rate at which a layer is deposited, many quality issues encountered during casting are not observed. Additionally, material properties are often improved by controlling interpass temperatures and heat treatment processes that occur with management.

For disrupted supply chains, additive manufacturing offers an increasingly valuable alternative to traditional manufacturing.

Additive manufacturing technology is no longer just for prototyping small components. Thanks to additive manufacturing companies like AML3D, continuous and repeatable production of large-scale exotic metal parts is available. Additive manufacturing allows organizations to access – and manufacturers to supply – better performing parts that are faster, lighter and greener than alternatives. Wire Additive Manufacturing technology provides the ability for flexible, demand-responsive manufacturing, ensuring capital is not tied up in inventory.

It all starts with understanding what is the biggest impact on your supply chain.

Main picture: The world’s largest 3D printed high pressure metal part for the oil and gas industry was manufactured using AML3D’s wire additive manufacturing process

*Excludes cradle-to-gate calculations for producing the wire feedstock or energy required to manufacture components featured in AML3D’s ARCEMY® metal 3D printing systems. For this article, a boundary has been set around the life cycle inventory assessment.

Frontiers In Additive Manufacturing is brought to you thanks to the support of CNC Designs VSF Large Area 3D printers.

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