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3D printing as a competitive edge

Additive Manufacturing (AM) - towards the digital revolution

​​Additive Manufacturing (AM), or 3D Printing is part of the digital revolution. It is changing the structure of the manufacturing industry and the way it is operating, especially in countries, where the competitiveness rests on high-end products and short series. VTT concentrates its AM research especially on metal printing, with the goal of increasing the competitiveness of its customers.

Materials development

The raw materials for metal printing are normally in the form of powders. VTT has a long experience and good facilities to tailor properties of the powders and make experimental batches fitting the purpose in question. Many of the most used industrial metals are commercially available as AM powders. Commercial and experimental powders can be developed for higher performance and functionality. Every powder requires its own manufacturing parameters so that the component to be printed is flawless.

​Product development

Additive manufacturing can strengthen product development in different phases, like in ideation, product conceptualisation, sketching, prototyping, piloting, product testing and accepting, as well as in marketing. By using AM, a company can easily test its products and markets also when the final product will be manufactured using another method. VTT helps its customers to implement AM as a part of their product development process and so to bring faster new competitive products into market.

​Optimisation of products and the printing process

AM gives to the designer a much bigger degree of freedom than the conventional fabrication methods. On the other hand, also AM has its restrictions which must be known.  VT have a strong competence in topological optimisation and in exploitation of the potential of AM. We also plan the process so that the printing is as cost-effective as possible and quality of the products is optimal. Parts with internal channels are good examples of products where both economic savings and a better performance can be achieved by using additive manufacturing.

Business models and integration of AM into production

Additive manufacturing forces companies to rethink their business models. As an example in spare parts production the supply chain can be shortened remarkably. VTT helps its customers to answer e.g. to following questions: Does AM bring economic value for me? Which parts are worth printing now and which ones possibly in near future? Can I ​increase competitiveness of my products or develop new ones with the help of AM? Do I purchase an own equipment or do I rely on subcontracting? How do I integrate AM into my production process? Which kind of infrastructure AM needs? How do I manage the control and quality assurance of the materials, the process and the parts to be printed?

VTT offers

  • Outstanding printing facilities
  • Active network of leading research and industrial partners
  • A deep knowledge in material science and AM process
  • Development of business models
  • Effective and reliable project execution

 

​​Advanced manufacturing techniques such as additive manufacturing are offering much greater geometric freedom in design than was previously possible. In order create products that are utilizing this new-found freedom to improve performance and reduce production costs, new approaches to design and optimization need to be considered – with the limitations of the chosen manufacturing technique considered from the very start of the design process.

 

​VTT has experts in structural design and analysis, advanced manufacturing techniques, and material science all under one roof. By combining knowledge and understanding of finite element based optimization methods (topology, shape, size, etc) with the limitations unique to a given manufacturing process it is possible to design functionally superior and/or reduced-cost solutions that are manufacturable.

 

​Potential positive outcomes from this design process include:

  • Reduced material costs
  • Lightweight or functionally superior design
  • Shorter time to market
  • Easier and cheaper customization of parts
  • Reduction in the complexity of the manufacturing process

 

References:

 

Contacts:

Juha Virtanen
Team Leader
+358405359685
Juha.Virtanen@vtt.fi

Erin Komi
Research Scientist
+358406829705
Erin.Komi@vtt.fi

 

​​VTT´s AM facilities

​​For printing of metal parts VTT has a SLM 125 HL machine, which due to its open architecture is very suitable for developing the process and materials. It can print e.g. aluminium alloys, tool steels, stainless steels, inconel, stellite and titanium. The build volume is 125x125x125 mm. Through partners VTT has an entry also to much bigger machines. For product development VTT has a number of plastics printers and a gypsum printer which is producing colourful models.

In order to add functionality onto products VTT has two direct write machines which can produce different layers and structures on 3D surfaces. DWTS (Direct Write Thermal Spray) is for deposition of different antennas and sensors for very demanding circumstances, while by DWP (Direct Write Paste) one can deposit a large range of materials, from conducting
and insulating materials to sol-gel and biomaterials.

Picture:​ VTT:n SLM 125 HL equipment can print parts of high quality from a wide range of metals and it can be used also for material development

 


VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd was happy to host the NAFEMS
conference titled Exploring the Design Freedom of Additive Manufacturing through Simulation in Helsinki on 22-23.11. The 110 participants heard presentations from industry, research institutes and universities covering a wide range of topics, including sessions on AM process simulation, topology optimization, new design and simulation approaches, and a workshop on the creation of design guidelines for selective laser melting. Thank you to all those who contributed to this interesting and informative event!
 
Links to VTT contributions:

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