Additive manufacturing system provider Velo3D surveyed a variety of non-customer, additive- manufacturing experts for their thoughts about developments in the industry in the coming year. Their responses cover a host of critical items that the AM industry needs to address, going forward.
Q: What do you think the metal AM industry needs to work on in 2020?
Greg Paulsen, Director of Application Engineering, Xometry :
I think it’s all about educating and managing expectations for metal AM. There is still a lot of confusion on what it is, the printed product, and how to best use it. Education, paired with more consistent and repeatable technologies, will go a very long way for the field. As new tech emerges in PBF, deposition, and binder jetting we need to work together as a manufacturing community to help new users understand the value of each, as well as their trade-offs.
MATERIAL AND TECHNOLOGY IMPROVEMENTS – two opinions
Yuan Tian, Ph.D. Materials Scientist, voestalpine , and Dr. Zach Murphree, VP of Technical Partnerships, VELO3D :
Expect the addition of more non-weldable materials that can be additively manufactured in certain methods, such as Stellite 6 and Inconel 738. The LPBF process also has to advance in the areas of surface finish, deformation and cost of post-machining; there has to be a better way to stress relieve during the printing process as well as reduce support structures. And further improvement is needed in other AM technologies; I’d like to see a larger chamber with EBM, improvements in accuracy, the ability to print larger parts without bending with DED, and better control of shrinkage with Binder Jet. Also, can someone release a reliable industrial printer, please?
Geometric possibilities for parts will need to expand, with printer capabilities continuing to be pushed further. As an industry, we will need to un-learn certain constraints. This will also require the co-development of advanced design hardware, and a tight integration between these design tools and the print preparation and build-file generation software. Use of .stl file format will continue to decline, but without there being a single accepted replacement.
THROUGHPUT MUST INCREASE
Taylor Doty, Implementation Leader, Additive Manufacturing, Divergent :
The LPBF systems will need to have higher print rates and larger build envelopes to open up more possibilities in metal AM. Specifically, I see the ability to nest parts, i.e. stack them on each other, for higher build density, will be important for speed and increased efficiency. But that requires manipulation of support structures and designing parts with these factors in mind.
CONSOLIDATION AND COLLABORATION CONTINUE – two opinions
More consolidation on the contract manufacturer (i.e. service bureau) side, with production contracts driving growth. The focus will continue to move away from service bureaus that are focused only on 3D-printing to one of successful conventional manufacturing CMs and turnkey parts.
There is also a stronger recognition that working across the value chain will increase profitability, and where aspects of the value chain are missing for companies, you’ll see strategic partnerships spring up instead. Nearly everyone is on board with a collaborative approach where it makes sense.
DIFFERENTIATION IS CRITICAL – two opinions
We are in a period in additive manufacturing that is seeing a huge proliferation of new machine suppliers (OEMs); this is happening across all AM modality types and materials. We will continue to see an increasing number of suppliers in the market, but these businesses will only be successful where they can clearly articulate a value proposition to the market. A compelling value proposition in this market will be overcoming challenges around cost, materials flexibility, and manufacturing constraints. I suspect that the flurry of acquisition activity that we have seen will slow over the coming years, and this will give the larger companies an opportunity to let the smaller companies mature. Eventually we will see more consolidation of the industry, but for now it’s a sit and wait game.
There will be lots of blood on the floor, with metal powder in it! The LPBF market is too crowded with too many companies that have nothing to differentiate them. Customers are investing in solutions proven through market share or that offer real, value-added technical advantages over those market leaders. Whoever proves that they can decrease cost and increase quality with consistent results will win. All of these other companies with small tweaks and differences that don’t make a big difference, they are going to start running out of money in 2020.
TIGHTER INDUSTRY STANDARDS
We are going to start seeing validation standards for end-use parts. People have been gathering data and trying out ways to test and then verify that if the process doesn’t change much, the results of those tests are valid. I think in 2020 some structural hardware will be approved through simulation and or similarity rather than needing rigorous testing on every part.
In-process quality monitoring and assurance must be a stronger focus for solution providers as OEMs want to move away from 100% post-inspection. Measuring mechanical integrity and detecting surface defects and porosity are vital for part quality and every solution provider needs to seriously think about how their solution will do that. Whoever is able to do that for mission-critical components is going to win. Machine OEMs and third-parties will need to address these needs through their product roadmaps.
APPLICATIONS WILL RULE
Applications are a big emergent theme. Finally, everyone has worked out that without valid applications we’ll have a whole lot of fancy tools and materials, but not products to build. Those that own the application space are the envy of the AM industry.
If you’ve enjoyed this discussion and would like to weigh in with your own thoughts about what 2020 holds for the future of AM, please feel free to send your comments to Joyce Yeung firstname.lastname@example.org