Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Optomec Acquires Huffman to Increase Its 3D Printing Reach in the Gas Turbine Market

ST Medical Devices

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Production-grade metal 3D printing leader Optomec has announced its acquisition of Huffman, a South Carolina-based company that has years of experience in supplying metal 3D printing systems for the additive repair of gas turbine components in the energy and aviation markets. This acquisition will increase its reach within Huffman’s home in the gas turbine market, which is good news for Optomec, as the global commercial aviation and power industry spend quite a lot of money each year on repairs.

Huffman and Optomec both offer a metal 3D printing process known as Directed Energy Deposition (DED), or LENS, which has several advantages over more well-known methods like selective laser melting or powder bed fusion. For example, LENS can 3D print parts in far less time, and for far less money, than SLM (LPBF, DMLS) methods can, and the process is also unique in its ability to add metal to existing parts for applications in coating and repair that can actually increase a component’s useful shelf life.

LENS systems use a high power laser (400W to 3kW) to fuse powdered metals into fully dense three-dimensional structures. LENS 3D printers use the geometric information contained in a solid CAD model to automatically drive the process as it builds up a component layer by layer. Additional software and closed-loop process controls ensure the finished part’s geometric and mechanical integrity.

“The opportunity for additive manufacturing in repair applications is often overlooked, but when you consider that corrosion and wear cost the US economy $300 billion per year, and that the global commercial aviation industry spends almost $100 billion annually on repair, you can get a better sense of the magnitude of these markets. With the Huffman acquisition, we aim to expand the use of DED/LENS repair for the existing installed base of more than 100,000 gas turbines and engines, while also leveraging that expertise to drive greater adoption of cost-effective repairs for mainstream industrial applications,” said David Ramahi, the President and CEO of Optomec.

Huffman’s software and metal additive repair equipment are used by nearly all of the world’s major aircraft engine and industrial gas turbine manufacturers. The company’s metal deposition capabilities are used to help restore damaged or worn components, which costs a lot less money than just going out and purchasing new spare parts.

“Optomec and Huffman joining forces is exciting news in the additive manufacturing space. Having used products from both companies, I know the complementary strengths of their portfolios and the value they provide to aerospace, defense, and power generation customers,” said Christopher E. Thompson, the General Manager of Product Service, GE Power. “Optomec’s innovative and affordable solutions in this space, combined with the robust, production-friendly equipment and intuitive user interfaces provided by Huffman are sure to enable new leaps in free-form additive manufacturing for repairs, new part build and hybrid manufacturing.”

Optomec’s acquisition of Huffman will, on a strategic level, help combine its horizontal market reach with Huffman’s reach in the gas turbine market over many different industries and hundreds of customs. Both businesses should see accelerated growth as the two combine their technical expertise and complementary product portfolios.

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