3D printing has arrived in the German mechanical engineering industry: In a survey conducted by the Association of German Machine and Plant Manufacturers (VDMA) in 2018, 47 percent of all machine manufacturers were already opting for 3D printing processes, at least in individual development and production stages. 33 percent have already looked into additive production methods and examined how these processes can be integrated into their own processes. Only two years earlier, the first of the two values was just 8 percent.
The advantages that additive manufacturing offers in the work processes of mechanical engineering should, in principle, inspire every machine manufacturer: Prototypes can be produced much more easily and quickly, so that initial sources of error can be identified at an early stage. Additi-ve production eliminates the need for casting molds, and according to Markus Hüllen, the entire process can even be largely automated. Components for systems and production equipment make the entire manufacturing process much more efficient. "Looking at the entire value chain, 3D printing is already significantly faster in individual cases than traditional production processes," says Markus Hüllen, Vice President of the 3D Competence Center of the SMS Group.
Great added value
In addition, industrial 3D printing allows the development of function-optimized construction methods. Designers no longer have to concentrate on what is technically feasible. Instead, for example, more filigree structures save material and crooked bores, which are not possible using conventional methods, enable more efficient cooling. The integration of functions made possible by additive manufacturing alone creates an added value in mechanical engineering that can hardly be quantified.
"From the point of view of a medium-sized company in mechanical engineering, what speaks in favour of the entry into industrial 3D printing is that additive manufacturing shows its strengths where conventional manufacturing reaches its limits. The domains of additive manufacturing, such as tool-free manufacturing, high material efficiency and maximum design freedom, open up a multitude of new business models," says Rainer Gebhardt of AG Additive Manufacturing at VDMA.
At the SMS Group, a spray head for drop forging presses was replaced by a 3D-printed component. The old one weighed 80 kilograms and also had metal plates bolted together. The new spray head, made of polyamide in a single operation, weighs less than 10 kilograms. Other savings and simplifications can be found, for example, at Gerhard Schubert GmbH, manufacturer of packaging machines. Markus Schindler, Head of Parts Production: "A workpiece that previously consisted of up to 40 individual parts can now be printed in one piece".
You can see the entire spectrum of additive manufacturing technologies at Formnext from 16 – 19 November 2021, where VDMA Working Group AM will be presenting innovative application examples at the "additive4industry" user case area.
- Mechanical Engineering