Since TCT show 2015 we seen launches of technologies from HP, Carbon, Xjet, EnvisionTEC’s SLCOM1, Massivit, to name just a few, as a user how exciting is this and how do you go about navigating the decision as to which technology to use?
You are right, it is impressive to see, how the market developed. APWorks offers expertise in the triad of Design, Materials and 3D Printing to customers in a lot of industries. The perfect interplay of these factors design, material and printing does not only lead to weight and cost savings and the integration of the functions into parts it revolutionises the design and manufacturing process. Those goals are only achievable when the design process, the optimised material and the 3D Printers are aligned. For us it is therefore important to select the right technology and machine which meets customers’ needs and produces parts out of innovative material in the highest quality. Amazing to see which geometries and parts are possible when you optimise your part design chose the perfect material and produce it on one of the latest printers.
The Aerospace sector has often pushed the boundaries when it comes to additive manufacturing, why are the technologies so important to the industry?
Higher, further, faster – aerospace is demanding. People and goods need to get from point A to point B in a short time, with the focus always on safety and efficiency. Weight and material savings are very important. Aerospace also demands the highest quality, and makes sure of it with numerous certification and qualification processes. To make radical progress in lightness, strength and ductility, we need advanced materials which will achieve their full potential when combined with advanced manufacturing. This is what we can do with our own material development Scalmalloy.
Do you think hardware, software and materials for 3D printing are all at similar stages of development or is one area racing away in particular? Do you think the companies involved in those factors still need to collaborate more?
The development phase of each of the factors is different. It is important to understand that in order to achieve positive business cases for customers across various industries you need to focus on the perfect interplay of the design process, supported by various software tools, materials and 3D printing. People have to rethink the design of parts as there are almost no limitations of the production method itself. This leads to innovative parts and products for different use cases. The perfect material for these use cases needs to be chosen and as a third step, the machine needs to be set for this material and design
Has the mainstream hype of years gone by has helped open doors at boardroom level?
Of course it did. One of the latest and most famous examples is APWorks’ Light Rider, world’s first 3D printed prototype for an electric motorcycle. The Light Rider is a design prototype intended to demonstrate what is possible today with AM. The primary objective was to reduce the weight of the frame while still having very high stability, so that a top speed of 80 km/h would be possible.
What do you think is the rate-limiting step towards stopping companies using additive technologies for series production?
3D printing allows much more freedom in component design. Parts can be produced with less weight, integration of new functionalities and at reduced lead time. In order to reach positive business cases, companies need to completely rethink the design of parts, select the optimized material and print those parts. Therefore, an expertise in the triad of Design, Materials and 3D Printing needed.
Do you think we’re beginning to see a skills gap and do you think there’s enough being done to plug it?
3D printing offers a high level of design freedom. Therefore, the design of parts needs to be changed for additive manufacturing. Limitations as in conventional manufacturing technologies disappear. Designing for 3D printing means a rethinking for the engineers. In order to close that gap a lot of companies nowadays offer design training.