According to its latest estimates, SmarTech Analysis values the additive manufacturing (AM) industry at $13.5 billion, with a projected growth to $25 billion by 2025. Based on reports from the ground, there should be no problem keeping up with those numbers, or even exceeding them. Two major customers, European aerospace giant Safran and U.S. service bureau ADDMAN, have invested in large-format metal 3D printers from competing manufacturers. While Safran took on a 12-laser NXG XII 600 from SLM Solutions (AM3D.DE), ADDMAN acquired two eight-laser Sapphire XC machines from Velo3D (NYSE: VLD).
Coming one after the other, almost as a form of marketing warfare, press releases from each original equipment manufacturer (OEM) boasted the sale of their largest machines to these established customers. In the case of Safran, the NXG XII 600 will be installed alongside SLM 500 systems at its AM Campus in Le Haillan, near Bordeaux, France, which was opened just last October. It will be leveraged for the production of large, qualified aluminum parts for existing and future projects.
“Safran is engaged in reaching carbon neutrality for aviation by 2050. Additive manufacturing is one of the main assets to secure this ambitious but realistic target, enabling to develop innovative architecture on our products, as long as reducing significantly their weight. Equipment such as the NXG XII 600 will be part of this challenging journey,” said Francois-Xavier Foubert, General Manager of Safran Additive Manufacturing Campus.
Meanwhile, ADDMAN will be installing the two systems at its Castheon facility, which already boasts the preceding generation of Sapphire machines. The printers have been calibrated for use with GRCop-42, a copper alloy developed by NASA for regeneratively cooled rocket engines, and Inconel 718 alloy, a high-strength, corrosion resistant nickel alloy. Despite being a more problematic material for PBF just a few years ago, copper is now becoming a mainstay of the AM industry, with SmarTech Analysis anticipating that over 1.4 million kilograms of copper powder, both pure copper and copper alloys, will ship for AM use by 2029, according to the “Copper Additive Manufacturing 2020–Market Database and Outlook” report.
“Velo3D’s additive manufacturing technology allows our customers to produce their most complex, highest-performing designs in the highest-quality prints,” said Mark Saberton, CTO at ADDMAN Engineering. “With these new Sapphire XC printers, we’ll be able to provide our customers with scalable, high-volume production capabilities and larger prints. This will help us keep our competitive advantage and ensure our customers have access to the latest additive-manufacturing technology.”
Each news item separately represents the relative success of each company, but more broadly demonstrates the growth of the AM industry. As global attention focuses on supply chain resilience and energy transition, 3D printing has become the go-to solution to tackle both of these elements, given the ability of AM to produce energy-efficient designs locally and on demand. Highly productive machines like those bought by Safran and ADDMAN are best poised to make parts for the sectors at the forefront of these trends. Aerospace, energy, and defense represent the nexus of supply chain resilience and energy transition, with customers in these areas turning to AM as the best technology equipped to tackle these issues.
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