Thinking beyond printing for full additive manufacturing value
Additive manufacturing is described as one of the most important and disruptive technologies to have emerged in recent years. But could a narrow focus on printing technologies alone mean that we won’t get the full potential out of additive manufacturing.
“The thing is that additive manufacturing is so much more than just the printing part,” says Kristian Egeberg, President of Sandvik’s Additive Manufacturing business.
According to Kristian Egeberg, understanding the full value chain for additive manufacturing (AM) is the key to unlocking its full potential to boost product innovation, business profitability – and environmental advantages.
“Today, many of the customers approaching us have the same question –
What can we print? But if you go into additive thinking about how to merely recreate existing components, you can feel that AM is a solution in search of a problem,” says Egeberg.
A better starting point is to consider your products, applications – and even business operations as a whole. From there, you can identify where functions or efficiencies can be improved with new design approaches, material choices and/or a reimagined supply chain.
The steps before and after printing are as important
In additive manufacturing, printing makes up just one of seven steps you need to master. The steps before and after the printing are equally important.
“With more than 150 years in the metal industry, few understand the secrets of additive manufacturing like Sandvik does. Metallurgy runs through every step of AM. It also happens to be our specialty and DNA. As world-leading manufacturers of gas-atomized AM-powders and leading experts in post processing methods, such as heat treatment and machining, Sandvik masters every step of the additive manufacturing value chain,“ says Egeberg.
Sandvik’s offering within additive manufacturing includes both advisory and manufacturing services – as well as metal powder, where Sandvik offers a very broad variety of alloys.
To get the optimal value from additive manufacturing, the Sandvik additive team takes its customer through a three-phase process, covering the complete value chain: Plan it. Print it. Perfect it. All are equally important.
Still early days, but the development is accelerating
While it is still relatively early days for additive manufacturing, the developments within this field is accelerating fast.
“Making the most of the additive manufacturing opportunity means rethinking everything, and bringing together capabilities from all steps in the additive value chain – not just investing in a single metal printer. What is great with Sandvik is that we have all these capabilities in-house already,” says Kristian Egeberg.
Sandvik's three phases for additive manufacturing
Phase one (Plan it) is all about selecting what to print, choose the most optimal material, develop the best possible design – and select the right additive technology for the end-product.
For phase two (Print it), Sandvik is equipped to print using Powder Bed Fusion (both laser and electron beam) and Binder Jetting. The choice of additive technology depends on the material and the desired characteristics of the end-component.
In phase three (Perfect it), because additively produced components rarely emerge from a printer 'ready to use', specialist post processing is generally required. This is an area where Sandvik has over 75 years’ of leading expertise, both in heat treatment and in machining, and thus the ability to determine an optimal finishing process to the specific application. And as in any other form of manufacturing, quality assurance is vital.