by Noelle Stapinsky
Shop Metalworking Technology asked Carl Hamann, Solution Centre manager for Renishaw (Canada) Limited, about the present and future opportunities for additive metal manufacturing technologies.
What is the state of additive manufacturing in Canada, specifically for the metalworking sector?
Metal additive is definitely on the rise in Canada. There’s more information out there about its capabilities, and more and more applications that are starting to take advantage of what the technology can offer. Renishaw has been supplying our machine tool probing and CMM technology to the metalworking sector for many years. Being able to help customers how we can use that expertise with our metal additive machines and looking at the end-to-end solution for production is key.
What options/technology does Renishaw offer?
Currently, Renishaw offers a Single and Quad laser powder bed fusion machine, the RenAM 500S and RenAM 500Q. These are production machines with an on-board automatic powder handling system, and Safe Change Filter, which minimizes the risk of the operator being exposed to metal powders and process emissions. We also offer a process monitoring package called InfiniAM Spectral which works with our MeltVIEW and LaserVIEW hardware to look at the process feedback from melt pool emissions across a wide spectral range and measures the input of the laser into the RenAM system.
What are some key considerations shops need to know when investing in additive technology?
Some of the key considerations would be: what parts am I making today and what parts will ultimately be suitable for additive manufacturing? In some cases, if you are currently fabricating a part with traditional methods, additive may not help you make those faster or cheaper. Just like any manufacturing process, additive manufacturing has its own set of DFM (Design for manufacturing) guidelines and where we have seen the biggest gains is when a component is designed for the manufacturing process from the start. The process is also relatively slow compared to say CNC machining, but the advantages lie in the complex geometric features the technology can produce. I think it is also good to note that we are not replacing traditional manufacturing methods like CNC, EDM, etc., additive manufacturing is another tool in the Manufacturing toolbox and more times than not, components will still require post processing in many forms to become a finished product. With the Quad Multi-laser platform, it is opening up new areas of part manufacturing that would previously have been cost/time prohibitive on a single laser machine. We have seen the cost per part coming down significantly in many cases.
What are your expectations for future growth?
I see potential for AM technology growth with larger machine platforms and more lasers per machine. This will further increase the machine productivity for part production and accommodate larger components. Also, the use of more sensors, and connectivity to monitor the performance of the machine and ultimately close the feedback loop of the systems. The key point with any of these technologies is process stability and once you have that, you can take advantage of speed and larger applications. From a machine adoption perspective, I do foresee more production adoption of metal additive as new products are designed specifically for the process, or existing components are adapted to take advantage of what this process can offer in performance gains and design flexibility. In the end, it is all about the cost per part and I think we are at a point now where our multi laser production machines are showing us that it can be comparable or better than other manufacturing methods for the right application.