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Additive Manufacturing Vital to Sector’s Future 

Fortus_6424

 A look inside the build bay of the Fortus 900 3D Printer Production System. The Fortus offers prototyping, modeling and direct digital manufacturing in build sizes up to 36″ x 24″ x 36″ for form, fit and function assessments as well as limited-rate production of end-use parts. Image courtesy of Robert C. Byrd Institute

By Rachel Duran

Additive processes are valuable tools to realizing efficiencies for operations of all sizes.

Once manufacturers utilize additive manufacturing tools for production processes, they can’t imagine going back to other methods. Evolving from the early days of stereolithography in the 1980s to polymer jetting and binder jetting, additive manufacturing processes assist companies in remaining competitive in a global economy. These capabilities also open the door for the return of manufacturing processes to America.
According to AMazing, www.additivemanufacturing.com, additive manufacturing technologies “build 3-D objects by adding layer-upon-layer of material, whether the material is plastic, metal, concrete or one day…human tissue.” AMazing also says “additive manufacturing encompasses many technologies including subsets like 3-D printing, rapid prototyping, direct digital manufacturing, layered manufacturing and additive fabrication.”
The use of these technologies by the manufacturing sector is on the rise. For example, in a forecast of 3-D printer demand worldwide, released in September 2013 by Gartner Inc., the market will grow from $288 million to more than $5.7 billion by 2017.
Companies of all sizes, as well as startups and entrepreneurs, are making use of additive manufacturing tools to produce components for industries such as aerospace, automotive and medical devices. For example, GE Aviation is currently installing 3-D printing equipment at its $50 million investment project in Auburn, Ala., to produce a fuel nozzle for the LEAP jet engine. The company will also manufacture precision, super-alloy machined parts for jets.
German-based company, citim AM, which produces metal parts though additive manufacturing processes, held an open house in October in Kennesaw, Ga. The company offers core competencies in design, additive manufacturing, component machining, and assembling, including measurement and documentation. The Kennesaw operation features a modern shop-floor with the latest laser melting machinery for direct manufacturing of metal components for the American market.
In Maryland, by conducting pretests for a chemical reconnaissance explosives screening set for use by the military with a rapid injection tooling “where we 3-D printed the injection tool, we saved a lot of money if we had gotten the geometry wrong,” says Brad Ruprecht, a technician in the additive manufacturing branch at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Md.

aberdeen product

Chemical Reconnaissance Explosives Screening Set. Image: Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground

The pretest took a little extra time with the 3-D printed tool but the samples allowed developers to prove out geometries before they cut metal tooling to conduct mass production runs.
The screening set is a pocket-sized colorimetric technology used to detect homemade precursors used in making explosives, such as urea, nitrates and more. The kit doesn’t require batteries, it is all chemical based, and is readily injection molded, Ruprecht says. “It was developed here and went through many iterations through the lab here through our machines.”
When it comes to uses by entrepreneurs, in West Virginia, an individual designed and 3-D printed components for use in products related to the high voltage energy business on machinery based at Marshall University in Huntington. He found it was less expensive to design and 3-D print the components than traditional methods. He is now mass producing the components, and has purchased his own 3-D printer after learning the ropes of the technology at the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing at Marshall University. “He actually added two employees on the design side,” says Charlotte Weber, director and CEO, RCBI.
Benefits Close the Gaps; Foster Collaborations
Additive processes allow companies to solve production challenges, saving money in the testing and prototyping stages, for example. Companies can test and tweak designs by using a full-sized component. “Not one process will be the magic bullet that solves every design or engineering problem that you have,” Ruprecht says. “Some processes have better mechanical properties or less support structure. There was a need for each process along the line as we [Edgewood] were building this capacity.”

Additive manufacturing technology with 3-D printers, including an EOS INT M280 Direct Metal Laser-Sintering System, is available at RCBI. Chris Figgatt, production engineer, is shown adjusting the digital file that directs the EOS System used to 3-D Print both end-use and prototype parts from a variety of metal powders, including titanium, aluminum, stainless steel, cobalt chrome and Inconel (high nickel alloy). Image courtesy of RCBI.

Additive manufacturing technology with 3-D printers, including an EOS INT M280 Direct Metal Laser-Sintering System, is available at RCBI. Chris Figgatt, production engineer, is shown adjusting the digital file that directs the EOS System used to 3-D Print both end-use and prototype parts from a variety of metal powders, including titanium, aluminum, stainless steel, cobalt chrome and Inconel (high nickel alloy).
Image courtesy of RCBI.

There are several additive organizations at APG, including Edgewood. “We are the most comprehensive at APG as far as the number of processes,” Ruprecht says. Officials at facilities such as Edgewood and RCBI work with entrepreneurs, introducing them to the additive manufacturing design process, its costs, and so on. RCBI provides services in 17 states, in addition to West Virginia.
Weber says training programs range from one day to week-long courses to curriculum that ties in with the local community college. “The most important part of this is that the Advanced Manufacturing Tech Center at RCBI provides hand-on training for additive manufacturing processes,” she says.
“We also encourage individuals to work with other organizations in our state, such as small business centers to work on business plans so they can invest in the technology and set up businesses in our state,” Weber says.
“A lot of businesses have heard about additive manufacturing,” Ruprecht says. “They know there are benefits but haven’t seen them first hand.” Before working for the Army at the APG, Ruprecht worked in the private sector and witnessed how valuable a tool additive manufacturing processes are to companies. “At APG we help manufacturers become accustomed to the processes,” he says. “We have a broad capability here.”
Ruprecht adds the hope is that entrepreneurs will go out and purchase equipment for themselves to create skilled jobs. “If they bring the activity in house after they come here for guidance, they will possibly add jobs to their payroll,” he says. “It saves them money because they learn what machines are the best for their shop floors.”
The majority of additive manufacturing activities at Edgewood are military related. Private industry and individuals access the machinery and expertise through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs). “We are not here to compete with industry; we are here to partner with industry and allow them to leverage the capabilities here at Edgewood,” says Ron Pojunas, acting associate  director, joint and interagency, engineering directorate, within the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center. “We work on a non-interruptive basis, so if a machine is tied up by the Army, private companies will wait.”

Putnam County, Ga.: Ideas, Development and Growth
Putnam County is situated between Atlanta, Augusta, Athens and Macon. Its location supports manufacturers involved in the construction of items needed for homes, such as cabinets and counter tops; wood and lumber products; biotech products, and IT/software products. In the biotech sector, Aalto Scientific Ltd., has just completed the construction of two facilities at the newly created 150-acre Rock Eagle Technology Park. The company built a 76,000-square-foot production and warehouse facility, and a 15,000-square-foot manufacturing facility to house its subsidiary, Audit MicroControls Inc. In other activity, ViziTech USA is a new addition to the county’s business roster, adding four employees to its initial 12 employees in a six-month period of time. The company is a designer of 3-D technology training/educational programs. In regard to workforce training assets, students in the Putnam County Charter School System can participate in training programs such as Work-Based Learning, Youth Empowerment for Success, and College Credit NOW – Academic and Occupational Dual Enrollment. Central Georgia Technical College provides workforce development programs at its Eatonton campus, as well as at Putnam County High School through its dual-enrollment program. High school students learn the soft skills necessary for life after high school and have an assortment of ways to explore opportunities available to them after graduation, writes Terry Schwindler, economic development director, Putnam Development Authority, in an email correspondence. Schwindler says Putnam County has the room necessary to support expansions and/or relocations. In addition to the Rock Eagle Technology Park, the development authority has recently acquired a 120-acre tract of land in the Eatonton-Putnam County South Industrial Park, and is in the process of developing pad-ready sites. These assets, combined with logistics advantages including access to Interstate 20; a location within 78 miles of the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport; and a location within 185 miles of the Port of Savannah, provides manufacturing companies with resources to assist in their success. For complete details, visit www.putnamdevelopmentauthority.com.

A recent APG CRADA is with the Northeast Maryland Additive Manufacturing Authority, which was created by the state’s legislature. The partnership with the authority will include members from education, government agencies and private industry in regard to advancing the state’s additive manufacturing cluster.
The authority will also be able to tap into the expertise of the Army Research Lab. “We will have joint work statements under this overarching CRADA,” Pojunas says. “We have had successful models and long-standing relationships with other outfits that do additive manufacturing with the lab at Edgewood.” He expects more relationships will be formed in the future.
“It is imperative that we remain at the forefront of innovation and emerging technologies,” Weber says in regard to the role additive manufacturing will play in the future of the manufacturing sector. “We must remain vigilant on expanding our workforce, and remain dedicated to training the workforce. And I think with 3-D printing, the design aspect, the importance on strengthening our workforce in 3-D printing will be an integral part of our future. It is not the same way you train for metal manufacturing or composite manufacturing.”

For complete details about the organizations featured in this article, visit:

Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground

Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing

Central Mexico: An Expanding Market Opportunity
The expanding Mexican market is a unique platform for companies because it offers access to qualified labor at reasonable rates to service not only the United States but also a strong Mexican market, as well as providing a platform into Central America and South America, says Marco Ramon, president of real estate, Amistad Industrial Developers. The company has facilities in northern and central Mexico, with plans to move into the southern states. More complex manufacturing operations continue to set up shop in Mexico, in addition to light assembly operations. Industries locating in northern and central Mexico include automotive, aerospace, medical devices, electronics companies and logistics companies. Northern Mexico continues to maintain a strength in the expansion of inbound assembly plants. Highly sought after locations include Saltillo, Coahuila, and Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. They have attracted some of the “largest OEMS; GM, Chrysler, Navistar, and more recently a new Kia plant to Monterrey,” Ramon says. Automotive companies establishing new assembly plants in Mexico in the past three to four years include: BMW in San Luis Potosi; Audi in Puebla; Nissan in Aguascalientes; Honda in Celya, Guanajuato; and Mazda in Salamanca, Guanajuato. The air condition industry also finds the areas around Saltillo and Monterrey attractive, home to facilities for Trane, Lennox, Nordyne and Carrier. Ramon says the communities of Saltillo and Monterey are close enough to the U.S.-Mexico border (three to four hours) to offer quick turnaround times. “And they are closer to central Mexico and have the platform to service their customers locating in central Mexico,” he says. “Amistad, which started in the north, now has a larger presence in central Mexico.” This wouldn’t be possible without a pro-business climate. “The government wants the jobs and will work with companies to make sure they have a soft landing when they get here,” Ramon says. For complete details, visit www.amistadmexico.com

 

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About the author: Rachel Duran

Rachel Duran is the editor in chief for Global Corporate Xpansion. Contact her at rduran@latitude3.com.

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