Just imagine what additive manufacturing can do
Whether it’s binder jetting, laser powder bed fusion or stereolithography, additive manufacturing (AM) is all about building, layer upon layer. Sandvik have spent 160 years doing something similar: building knowledge about materials and manufacturing processes – upon expertise, upon experience.
AM enables things that would otherwise be impossible – complex designs and geometries in strong, light materials that deliver optimal performance. And the environmental advantages are many. Sandvik’s longstanding commitment has also produced something remarkable – an organization with world-leading and unique expertise across the entire value chain of one of the world’s most disruptive technologies.
Mikael Schuisky, VP and Business Unit Manager at Sandvik Additive Manufacturing, sees Sandvik’s expertise as a work in progress that can be traced back to its origin in 1862. “Our journey with additive manufacturing started 160 years ago,” he says, “we just didn’t know it then. And the materials- and process knowledge we’ve been gathering since is crucial to succeed in the industrialization of additive manufacturing.”
Our journey with additive manufacturing started 160 years ago – we just didn’t know it then
It’s a fairly common misconception that additive manufacturing involves little more than simply pressing ‘print’. This isn’t the case of course, and for Mikael and his colleagues, printing is just one of seven steps that need to be mastered, to succeed with the industrialization of additive manufacturing. Sandvik’s approach – “Plan it, Print it, Perfect it” – is successful because of their leading expertise throughout these seven steps. This broad-spectrum know-how comes from the group’s longstanding position as an authority in materials technology and metal powder production, as well as post processing. And this position wasn’t arrived at overnight, as Mikael explains:
“Sandvik has been driving the materials evolution for 160 years, and we have more than 75 years’ leading expertise in post-processing methods like metal cutting, sintering and heat treatment. We’ve also been producingmetal powders for well over 40 years, especially via gas atomization. When it comes to additive manufacturing, we’ve been supplying our premium Osprey® metal powders to the industry for 20 years, and since 2013, we’ve made sizeable investments into a wide range of 3D printing technologies. So in total, we’ve accumulated a vast amount of experience and knowledge across the additive value chain over the years.”
By putting together the boundless possibilities of additive manufacturing with expertise that spans generations, Mikael believes Sandvik’s work will have a profound impact across a variety of industries:
“Once in a while a new technology comes along, that forces us to rethink everything. Additive manufacturing is right up there with the steam engine – and it’s truly an honor to be alive to witness that.”
Additive manufacturing is right up there
with the steam engine
Delivering a complete additive manufacturing service
When operating in a segment that’s both dynamic and rapidly evolving, it’s important to look outwards and recognize new possibilities as they emerge. That’s one of the aims of Sandvik’s strategic partnerships and investments – to identify ways of breaking new ground at all stages of the process.
In 2019, Sandvik acquired a significant stake in the BEAMIT Group – today one of the world’s largest, independent service provider in additive manufacturing. BEAMIT provide support and expertise to the aeronautics, aerospace, energy, and motor sports industries, with technologies including direct metal laser sintering, electron beam melting, and selective laser sintering.
Since joining forces with Sandvik, the BEAMIT Group has expanded to incorporate even more innovative companies and AM service providers, including ZARE in Italy and 3T Additive Manufacturing in the UK. BEAMIT also holds a significant stake in PRES-X – a highly qualified company specializing in post-processing both for additive and traditional manufacturing, covering all phases in a single plant through a fully automated, efficient, and sustainable digital approach. These acquisitions further expand the capabilities and range of technologies that Sandvik can provide. Customers now benefit from fully integrated production services for high-end components: from design and material selection, to the manufacturing of tailored metal powders, through to a wide range of 3D printing process options, and finally the different post-processing methods.
A world-leading selection of metal powders – the widest alloy range on the market
The combination of Sandvik’s proud history and the extended capabilities brought about by the BEAMIT Group, means the vision of providing a complete service offering in additive manufacturing is now a reality. Sandvik’s world-leading range of quality materials is at the heart of this, including high-alloy materials like duplex and super-duplex stainless steels, titanium and nickel-based super alloys, as well as hard and super-hard materials like cemented carbide and diamond composite.
But this is about more than offering the widest range of metal powders. It’s about producing and optimizing these alloys in-house, to obtain the ideal characteristics for use in additive manufacturing – consistently and reliably. Sandvik’s state-of-the-art production facilities and leading expertise in gas atomization make it possible to produce powders with uniform morphology and chemical composition, low humidity, tailored particle size distribution, and limited internal voids, oxides and contaminants.
“The proprietary in-house technology we’ve developed affords us advantages in terms of the quality and consistency of the powders,” Mikael says, “but they also improve the efficiency of the additive process itself.”
As well as being of universally premium quality, the well-renowned Osprey® metal powders are optimized for various additive manufacturing processes. The creation of a 3D printed impeller, produced in collaboration with energy giant Equinor and Norwegian Eureka Pumps, is a concrete example of how this works in practice.
An impeller is a device that sits inside a shaft or valve, driving various fluids through pipes. With their complex internal geometry, impellers are exactly the kind of component whose production would benefit from additive manufacturing. Even the most advanced casting technologies risk defects and inaccuracies – and the process is far slower than 3D printing, forcing end-users to keep spare parts in stock instead of being able to manufacture them on-demand.
Impellers typically operate in highly corrosive offshore or marine environments, so it's vital they maintain excellent corrosion resistance, while withstanding wear and hydrogen embrittlement. A high-grade stainless steel would meet these requirements, but the challenge of combining the suitable alloys with additive manufacturing has previously proved challenging.
This all changed with Sandvik’s breakthrough with Osprey® 2507. One of Sandvik’s true flagship materials, this super-duplex stainless steel powder provides outstanding corrosion properties and mechanical strength. Using laser powder bed fusion, Sandvik produced an optimized and customized impeller – in Osprey® 2507. Enabled by the joint materials- and additive manufacturing expertise within Sandvik and the BEAMIT Group, the impeller reinvented proved near fully-dense (>99.9%) and crack-free, even before post processing.
The case involving super-duplex stainless steel and the Equinor impeller is just one single example. Combining superior materials and innovative manufacturing technologies opens up unbounded possibilities in applications as diverse as machine tooling and medical implants. With enormous potential in so many areas of life, it’s impossible to predict where additive manufacturing will take us… but you can be sure that Sandvik will be at the heart of it.