RAPID + TCT is back in Pittsburgh for its 27th installment, a fitting time to return to “The Steel City” – when metal additive manufacturing stands out among the latest growth and advancements in the industry. As metal 3D printing becomes competitive with traditional production processes, it will have a profound impact on the way companies manufacture products across all major industries. We’ll see this impact far beyond aerospace and medical, where it currently sees the most investment.
Although additive manufacturing in plastics has been around for three decades, the big push in the last 10 years has been in producing metal-based parts. Materials development in that segment has progressed at a furious pace to accommodate the requirements of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) looking for a fast way to print low-volume components. With these advancements, we’re seeing metal 3D printing move from the laboratory to an actual production tool.3D printing technology is also moving manufacturing away from a mass production model and toward a model centered around customized and intensely designed components.
“This switch is allowing for new approaches to product innovation, with companies able to design and build products in ways that have never been possible,” explains Jack Beuth, professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and director of the NextManufacturing Center.
Known as one of the world’s leading research centers for additive manufacturing, the NextManufacturing Center is defining the future of the field with its commitment to increasing the widespread adoption of additive technology. Researchers in the center are working to enable future product innovation through their research in integrated component design, process design, and feedstock design.
Many Pittsburgh-based companies have made significant investments in metal 3D printing. When this process becomes more integrated into production, it will only see more demand in the coming years. Arconic, a global technology, engineering and advanced manufacturing leader, is already taking 3D printing out of the lab and into the skies with three agreements for 3D printed metal parts for Airbus commercial aircraft. Under the agreements, the company will supply 3D printed components made from titanium and high temperature nickel superalloys from its Austin, TX facility, drawing on capabilities gained through the acquisition of RTI International Metals.
“This switch to a more customized model also has implications for job growth in the manufacturing sector. Because more human expertise is needed to create additively manufactured parts than mass produced parts, 3D printing has the potential to grow industry and the economy,” Beuth adds.
“Metal 3D printing is on the rise because it reduces material input, speeds time to market and enables the production of complex parts not possible with traditional manufacturing methods,” said Don Larsen, Vice President, R&D and Advanced Manufacturing for Arconic. “As the additive manufacturing space heats up, Arconic is on the cutting-edge of commercializing the technology for aerospace and our agreements with Airbus are proof points.”
Arconic also opened a state-of-the-art 3D printing metal powder manufacturing facility in July 2016 at the Arconic Technology Center (ATC) near Pittsburgh, where it is developing proprietary titanium, nickel and aluminum powders optimized for 3D printed parts for aerospace, automotive, and other markets. During this year’s RAPID + TCT event, Arconic will host a tour of the ATC, the world’s largest light metals research center.
RAPID + TCT attendees will also have the opportunity to tour ExOne’s global corporate headquarters, based just outside of Pittsburgh. This facility features a machine build center for metal 3D printers and research and development lab. Attendees will learn how ExOne Systems are built in the machine build area, how parts are printed in the Production Service Center (PSC), and how they support customers in part design at the DREAM Center.
Beyond the facility tours, RAPID + TCT is also offering a metal 3D printing-focused show floor tour for those who may feel a bit overwhelmed looking at the list of 300+ exhibitors. For attendees who are looking to advance their understanding of metal additive manufacturing, two metal workshops will be offered.Additive manufacturing, especially in metals, is powering a paradigm shift in how we make things. What better place to highlight that change than Pittsburgh, which itself has gone through a transformation over the past several decades. And RAPID + TCT’s presence this May highlights the opportunities both for manufacturing and for the Pittsburgh region.
Maria Conrado is the Event Manager, SME.