Global engineering group GKN plc has separate, specified company divisions in aerospace, automotive engineering, and powder metallurgy, and has utilized additive manufacturing in each of them for years, working to refine and research the technology. GKN has produced, certified, and seen its 3D printed aerospace components fly the friendly skies on nearly ten major platforms, and many of its 3D printed automotive parts are currently in use as well; the company is also a specialist AM powder producer. More than 58,000 people in over 30 countries are employed at GKN companies and joint ventures, and I would guess there will be more to come now that the company has announced it has consolidated all of its additive manufacturing activities together into a single, new brand – GKN Additive.
“GKN Additive is an incredibly exciting venture and the potential applications for the technology are endless,” said Jos Sclater, Head of Strategy at GKN. “The benefits of AM are significant, both for our customers and the world around us in terms of greener, more efficient production. There is also a tangible feeling that manufacturing is suddenly a very exciting place to be for the brightest and best engineering talent. That is great for the future of the industry and I am delighted that GKN Additive will be at the forefront of this revolution.”
As the company’s new brand puts it, AM technology is a new way of thinking about how today’s products are designed and manufactured. The GKN Additive brand combines advanced 3D printing technology with the company’s history of manufacturing parts for aerospace and automotive engineering.
The brand operates from multiple global centers of excellence in four countries, which focus on all production aspects, including powder production, manufacturing, and final part certification. Three of these centers are located in the US, and four are across the pond – the company’s UK headquarters, which specializes in powder bed processes, two in Germany, and one in Sweden. GKN Additive provides customers around the world with a complete AM solution, so they can use creative solutions and high-quality materials and processes to overcome engineering challenges across multiple industries.
There are four important factors in producing additively manufactured components for industrial purposes, the first of which is understanding the raw materials; in this case, metal AM powder. The second is the all-important process knowledge, so manufacturers can decide which specific AM technology to use, be it laser metal deposition, selective laser sintering, or powder bed fusion. An expertise in manufacturing is essential when you’re actually producing the components, as well as the fourth factor – the ability to certify or qualify the parts so they can be used.
“Thanks to our specialist powder business, Hoeganaes, and based on our 250 years of manufacturing and engineering experience, GKN is outstandingly placed to continue to lead in all four areas,” said Sclater. “And by bringing our AM expertise together in GKN Additive, we are not only able to continue supporting existing customers in our core aerospace and automotive markets, but also to explore entirely new AM markets too. It is an exciting step for GKN and a statement of our AM intent.”
Hoeganaes is part of GKN’s powder metallurgy division, and according to a DEVELOP3D blog post, agreed earlier this year to manufacture titanium powders in North America for AM applications in a joint venture agreement with TLS Technik in Germany.
Sclater’s mention of ‘intent’ is perhaps the most important part of the company’s announcement – this new AM brand consolidation is a signal to the rest of the world that GKN means business when it comes to additive manufacturing technology. Even though GKN Additive was just launched, the goal is for it to eventually become the “focal point” for all of the company’s AM projects.
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