3D Printing Establishes Itself in Mechanical Engineering

Siemens uses additive manufacturing to produce gas turbines: These blades have to endure 13,000 rpm and temperatures beyond 1,250 °C. (Source: Siemens)

Additive manufacturing technologies or 3D printing are of increasing importance to mechanical engineering – not only for the production of prototypes but as a serious additional manufacturing technology. According to a recent survey of the Additive Manufacturing Association within the German mechanical engineering industry organization VDMA, 3D-printed parts or additive manufacturing itself play a role with nearly half of all companies. Of the other half, many mechanical engineers are considering application possibilities. “While it’s relatively small investments in many cases, a few companies reach a six-digit euro amount, with the component volume used,” explains Rainer Gebhardt, manager of the association.

What strikes the eye is that plastic as well as metal production are quickly gaining importance. Half of the companies surveyed use only plastic 3D print, a quarter do metal production only. All other companies surveyed use both raw materials. So far, prototyping is the most important, with fifty percent of companies naming it as their intended purpose for 3D printing. “The other half of the companies already have applications in the areas of series, tools, and spare parts,” says Gebhardt.

There is about as much 3D printing production through third parties as there is in-house use of additive manufacturing technologies. Often, the company’s own production in the plastic sector serves as an entry point to the topic. On the other side, offers from capable service providers are an opportunity to implement first serial parts. In the metal sector in particular, companies only begin their own manufacturing, which means high investments, after successful developments with third parties. “Additive manufacturing is developing into a permanent fixture in modern manufacturing technologies. The development towards more productive and process-reliable production systems as well as the growing range of materials is accelerating this trend,” says Christoph Hauck, chairman of the board of the AM Association and managing director of the company Toolcraft.

VDMA AM mirrors the importance of the whole process chain of 3D printing. Additive product development, the layer construction process, and all parallel and post-process production steps all make for its success. At the same time, the rapid development of technology and knowhow facilitate entry into competition-driven application areas, such as mechanical engineering. Of special importance are the cooperation between all participants, optimization of processes up to industrial manufacturing sequences, and safeguarding required qualities. The Association within VDMA with its 140 members has made these goals its own, and the Association is working on these topics in working groups as well as publicly. (Source: VDMA)

Link: Additive Manufacturing Association, Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau e.V. (VDMA), Frankfurt, Germany

 

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