Additive Manufacturing Strategies

For Linde, Additive Manufacturing is a Gas

ST Medical Devices

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Additive manufacturing, particularly metal additive manufacturing, involves a lot more than just some powder and a 3D printer. There’s also a lot of gas involved, and that’s what industrial gas giant Linde realized in 2016. The company recognized an opportunity to develop gas application potential across the entire additive manufacturing process chain.

Christoph Laumen

“It starts in the powder atomization, through the actual printing or building process, and goes further to all the post-treatment operations,” said Christoph Laumen, whose team is developing Linde’s additive manufacturing solutions.

Linde has been working with partners like the Airbus Group and has seen the potential for gas to play an invisible yet important role in the additive manufacturing process. Linde was the first company to recognize that it could contribute to influencing additive manufacturing materials’ properties by using active gases and a variety of flow characteristics. According to Laumen, the company’s initial focus was on creating a solution that would give customers greater ability “to measure and control the oxygen content and humidity in the powder beds of the print chamber.” This was key in achieving reproducible results and led to the launch of the ADDvance line of additive manufacturing solutions.

“We have a competence that very few people in this ecosystem have,” Laumen continued.

In 2016, Linde opened its Linde Global Development Center on Additive Manufacturing and began what Laumen called “a development roadmap for the next three to five years, with more than 30 project ideas that will really make a difference to the industry.”

“Some are really visionary,” he said. “It’s really the second and third generation of AM. But there are other things that can increase productivity and improve the traceability and reproducibility of the parts very short term.”

As its research has progressed, Linde has seen its role in additive manufacturing evolve, according to Laumen, “from satisfying customer demands to really having our own understanding where the technology will go, how it will evolve, and how our role can be going forward.”

“We’re really focusing on tailor-made gas mixtures for powder bed fusion and for all major alloy systems. So there is a focus on titanium and aluminum, the ones that are mostly used in the industry right now,” he continued. “But we are also looking into gas management, recirculation concepts, recycling systems. To make this technology for mass production, like the automotive industry and consumer goods, you really need to get the costs down. We want to make sure that the technology becomes affordable and gets more viable for a wider industry.”

Laumen estimates that 10 to 15 projects currently in progress will be ready for launch by 2025. Linde highly values collaboration and industry partnerships, which played a role in the company’s decision to become one of seven partners of the second Munich Technology Conference (MTC).

“Working with partners has a very long history at Linde, and this is always our preferred model,” Laumen said. “Only by involving partners and lead customers will you really understand the end user requirements. And often it improves agility and speed to market. The MTC event last year demonstrated that it has the potential to bring high-level deciders and influencers together. I personally also liked the open spirit very much, and the mutual strive for making AM something great and transformative. Linde has identified AM as one of the future growth areas, and we wanted to make sure that we are well positioned and contributing our fair share. And as partner in 2018, MTC2 gave us the opportunity to talk in more detail to people about what are their key influencing factors and challenges into today’s AM ecosystem – in fact in our workshop the collaboration with over 60 people was great, with people openly giving their insight to help improve the industrialization of AM for all going forward.”

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[Source: Oerlikon]

 

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