SHOP Mettalworking Technology magazine caught up with the president of Renishaw (Canada) earlier this year to pick his mind on industry challenges and developments with his company following the signing of an important partnership agreement.
SHOP: Renishaw (Canada) recently struck a partnership with Elliott Matsuura to represent your additive manufacturing machines in Canada. Why is this the right time for this partnership?
WILLIAMS: Metal additive manufacturing is a rapidly changing sector and we are experiencing a market shift towards “production manufacturing” rather than prototyping. Renishaw’s REN AM500Q/S platforms are ground-up engineered as production systems for laser powder bed applications. Elliott Matsuura is an ideal partner with a deep understanding of capital production technologies.
SHOP: How do you see this partnership helping you in the Canadian market?
WILLIAMS: Elliott Matsuura is represented from coast to coast within the Canadian market, and have decades of experience with the sales and support of capital equipment.
SHOP: With regards to training and trouble-shooting, how will you support additive manufacturing adoption in the industry?
WILLIAMS: Renishaw has a group of specialized service and applications engineers who are dedicated to the support of our customers across the Americas.
SHOP: What are your projections for the growth of additive manufacturing among Canadian manufacturers over the next decade and what will fuel this growth?
WILLIAMS: This is a very difficult question to answer as the technology and market awareness are moving at such a fast rate. However, we feel that Canada is well positioned in several key sectors to sustain better than 20 per cent year-over-year growth in metal powder bed fusion.
SHOP: To this point, metal additive manufacturing hasn’t taken a significant hold of manufacturing beyond prototyping and small/customized production runs. What have been the obstacles that have kept metal additive manufacturing from gaining a larger foothold in mass production of parts, particularly in the automotive and aerospace sector?
WILLIAMS: The largest obstacle without doubt has traditionally been “cost per part”. Advancements in productivity continue to challenge this boundary and open up the technology to more available applications. However, a secondary issue is the understanding of part design to take full advantage of the additive manufacturing process. Companies and industries that have grasped design for additive manufacturing (DfAM), have been able to influence not only the performance of a part/product but also their value and competitiveness.
SHOP: How do you see this changing?
WILLIAMS: Along with having optimized designs, and performance gains, Renishaw’s REN AM500Q/S platforms raise the bar on productivity with closed loop powder handling and optimized gas flow to reduce the operator touch time. The four lasers “Q” system address the entire build envelope with each laser and this allows for optimum productivity and processing without sacrificing quality. Ultimately this brings the cost per part down considerably, making the technology accessible for more and more applications.
SHOP: How can the efficiency of metal powder bed fusion (laser melting) technology be improved to produce more parts at a faster rate?
WILLIAMS: We will undoubtably see future advancements in automation and lights out operation of the systems. This coupled with additional lasers for increased productivity and the closed loop process feedback to ensure the quality and repeatability of the process is maintained.