The Latest Developments in Additive Manufacturing: October 2023

25 October 2023
CNC machinining

Report by Danny Weller

3D printing and additive manufacturing are revolutionizing global industries. They are reshaping traditional production methods, enhancing supply chain resilience, and expediting the introduction of new products.

In addition to these advantages, additive manufacturing also supports sustainability objectives. Businesses can now create precise product quantities, minimizing material waste compared to conventional manufacturing. This approach not only caters to market demand but also eliminates excess stock, reducing associated material and stockholding costs. These cost savings have positive economic and environmental implications.

From submarines and spacecraft to sportswear and surgical tools, additive manufacturing is proving itself as the technology of the future, available today.

spacex yJv97tE7GDM unsplash
Image: Space X

The Lunar Production and Operations Center:
3D Printed Lunar Landers

The future of space travel is being reshaped by 3D printing technology. Intuitive Machines Inc., a prominent leader in the space exploration industry, inaugurated its Lunar Production and Operations Center at the Houston Spaceport. This center is a game-changer, significantly enhancing lunar access capabilities for the United States, NASA, and global commercial partners. According to Steve Altemus, Co-Founder, President, and CEO of Intuitive Machines, “The Moon is no longer a distant dream; it’s a destination within our grasp, and this facility is our lunar gateway.”

This state-of-the-art facility boasts the capacity to simultaneously produce multiple lunar landers and spacecraft, facilitating safe and sustainable space exploration for both human and robotic missions. A notable aspect of this production process is the integration of 3D printers and additive manufacturing, enabling the company to create engine prototypes on demand. This flexibility allows engineers to conduct detailed and incremental tests on engine designs, pushing the boundaries of innovation.

Notably, 3D printers excel in zero gravity environments, presenting a revolutionary solution to eliminate the need for restocking flights with spare parts to the International Space Station. Beyond this, additive manufacturing holds the potential to support future long-distance missions to the Moon and Mars. These missions could operate without the burden of carrying additional spare parts or relying on restocks from Earth.

Deutsche Bahn Train
Image: Daniel Abadia

Deutsche Bahn and Essentium: A New Partnership

Germany’s renowned national rail service, Deutsche Bahn, is poised for a future-oriented transformation, thanks to its recent collaboration with American firm Essentium. This partnership is set to revolutionize train maintenance and ensure seamless access to vital spare parts. The focal points for Deutsche Bahn moving forward are speed, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness in train maintenance.

At the core of this transformation is Essentium’s High-Speed Extrusion 3D printing platform. This technology empowers Deutsche Bahn to execute swift refurbishments of its trains by producing 3D-printed train components and tools from high-performance materials. Deutsche Bahn’s digital warehouse already boasts 1,000 virtual technical drawings of spare parts that can be 3D printed on demand. The company has ambitious plans to expand this catalog to 10,000 component parts by 2030.

Essentium’s HSE technology and materials will enable Deutsche Bahn to effectively address raw material shortages and tackle supply chain issues. The specific challenge of dealing with obsolete parts, that are no longer in production, can be effectively mitigated by leveraging on-demand 3D printing.

This strategic partnership between Deutsche Bahn and Essentium underscores the pivotal role of additive manufacturing in the future of the manufacturing industry. As Dr. Said Blake Teipel, CEO of Essentium, aptly puts it, “This partnership will pave the way for others in the rail and transport industries to follow.”

Image: Pelagus 3D

The Launch of Pelagus 3D

The maritime and offshore industry is on the brink of a transformative leap in efficiency and cost-effectiveness, all thanks to additive manufacturing. Thyssenkrupp and Wilhelmsen have jointly introduced Pelagus 3D at the NAMIC conference in Singapore, heralding a groundbreaking partnership.

Pelagus 3D aspires to be a major new player in the global maritime and offshore services sector, positioning itself as the premier on-demand digital manufacturing partner for these industries.

Through the integration of additive manufacturing technologies, Pelagus 3D is set to revolutionize the production of maritime spare parts. This advancement promises reduced production times and costs while fortifying supply chain resilience. This ensures that customers can maintain their vessels in seaworthy condition and uphold their operational schedules.

Pelagus 3D’s additive manufacturing capabilities are poised to tackle industry challenges, “obsolescence and long lead times for mission-critical parts with on-demand production”, as noted by Dr. Ho, CEO of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (NAMIC).

Nuclear Submarine
Image: Thomas Haas

3D Printed Nuclear-Submarines

HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding division (NNS) and General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) have announced that they are ‘aggressively looking’ for ways to incorporate 3D printing and additive manufacturing into mainstream shipbuilding, according to Dave Bolcar, NNS Vice President of Engineering and Design.

The adoption of certified 3D-printed components promises to streamline the construction and delivery of submarines to the U.S. Navy by cutting production times for vital components. Megan Roberts, Vice President of Quality, Waterfront Engineering, Radiological Controls, and Fleet Support for Electric Boats at NNS said: “These first efforts to install additive-manufactured parts on submarines demonstrate the technology’s potential to dramatically reduce lead times for critical components, which will enable us to deliver more submarines faster.”

These companies are currently focused on developing and deploying marine-based alloys as an alternative to traditional copper-nickel castings.

One notable success is the 3D printing of a copper-nickel deck drain assembly. NNS and GDEB, in collaboration with AMMCON, have successfully created the model and proof of concept for this part. The assembly is currently undergoing final machining before installation on the Virginia-class submarine Oklahoma (SSN 802).

This digitalized production process carries the potential to reduce lead times for critical components, lower production costs, and optimize production schedules for naval vessels.

Surgical Tray
Image Ozkan Guner

restor3d and the ‘Next Generation’ of 3D Printed
Surgical Tools

restor3d, the 3D printed medical device company, is on a mission to revolutionize patient care and empower surgeons with the next generation of surgical instrumentation, crafted using Formlabs 3D printers.

Traditional surgical instrumentation systems are burdened by high initial costs, with standard stainless steel trays costing upwards of $50,000 per tray. This hefty investment confines manufacturers to use these trays for long periods and discourages them from implementing design enhancements or minor upgrades that could enhance the tray’s effectiveness and its accompanying instruments.

Cambre Kelly, Chief Technology Officer at restor3d, underscores the sluggish evolution of traditional instrument production, which can lead to complications and delays in surgical workflows. Leveraging 3D printing capabilities, restor3d is dedicated to creating procedure and patient-specific polymer implants and surgical instruments, ultimately enhancing the delivery of surgical care to patients.

This marks just the beginning of restor3d’s journey and the broader impact of 3D printing in medical manufacturing. According to Kelly, the company is already planning expansions into foot and ankle operations and various spinal surgeries, with additional applications in orthopedics such as trauma, upper extremity, and sports medicine on the horizon.

What’s Next?

Additive manufacturing is rapidly becoming a central player in global manufacturing, with a particularly profound impact on the aerospace, medical, energy, and automotive sectors. This innovative technology offers users substantial scheduling and economic advantages.

As Dr. Atanu Chaudhuri, Associate Professor in Technology and Operations Management at Durham University Business School, states: “Additive manufacturing will play a key role in product design and customization. Many companies actively consider additive manufacturing when designing new products, which allows customization to suit customers’ needs and improves product performance and sustainability.”

A 2019 Deloitte study revealed that early adopters of additive manufacturing experienced a remarkable 3.3 percent increase in productivity and output between 2015 and 2018, alongside cost reductions. According to AMPower, the additive manufacturing industry is projected to reach £17 billion in revenue by 2027.

Much of the focus of the last decade’s development in AM has surrounded the engineering level. How can we produce a printed part? What will the material properties of that part be? Will the part be suitable for X application over a lifetime of Y?

To access the transformative benefit of AM, industry must now focus on solving the challenge of scaling – managing the digital ecosystem that will turn an innovative manufacturing method into the catalyst to digitally transform the entire supply chain.



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