The metal additive manufacturing industry is forming what is shaping up as a formidable trade group within the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF). It’s an interesting thrust for machinery producers and users, who have been part of several different organizations, such as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers where 3D plastics printing predominated.
An organizational meeting held in Las Vegas June 16 attracted 52 companies. To date, twenty-one companies have applied for charter membership in the Association of Metal Additive Manufacturers (AMAM).
“These soon to be charter members recognize that metal AM represents a natural relationship to powder metallurgy (PM) technology and that MPIF is already well established as the organization representing the worldwide interests of virtually all facets of PM technology,” says James P. Adams, MPIF CEO.
Adams continued: “Immediate needs facing the metal AM industry include establishing and sharing of best practices related to the safe operations of metal AM facilities; establishing an industrywide approach to metal AM marketing including an online media strategy; organizing of classroom and online educational programs to expand knowledge of metal AM’s key differentiators including design for AM shape capability, tool free manufacturing, mass customization, use of unique alloys, and design for metal AM microstructure; organizing of educational programs to train new metal AM technologists; take an active role in industry research with a focus on metal powders and new alloys to expand potential applications in the industry; collaboration with or without other standards development organization to prioritize and create key standards for metal AM final material properties and testing methodologies, and guidelines for machine installations, processing, design, and recycling; and collection and reporting of key commercial benchmark statistics within the metal AM industry.”
The MPIF has also been home for several years of a sub group involved with metal injection molding.
The MPIF did not release the names of any charter members, but a list of attendees at its annual meeting in Las Vegas was available on its web site. They included officials of 3D Systems (equipment), EOS (equipment), Stratasys (equipment), Formlabs (equipment), GE (equipment and parts) and Heraeus Additive (metal powders).
The equipment producers represent three metal additive manufacturing approaches: laser-based, electron-beam, and ink-jet processes (aka 3D printing). In addition to making parts captively, GE sells equipment from its acquisitions ArcamEBM and Concept Laser.
The MPIF says there are three well-known commercial PM applications for additive manufacturing: titanium medical implant parts, cobalt-chrome dental copings, and cobalt-chrome aircraft-engine nozzles made by GE at the rate of 40,000 annually. Rolls-Royce is also testing a prototype front bearing housing made from a titanium–aluminum alloy for its Trent XWB-97 engines.
A number of powder makers are working on qualifying gas- and water-atomized powders for AM.
GE Additive announced last week that it is creating the world’s largest laser-powder additive manufacturing machine. “The machine will 3D print aviation parts that are one meter in diameter, suitable for making jet engine structural components and parts for single-aisle aircraft,” said Mohammad Ehteshami, VP of GE Additive. “The machine will also be applicable for manufacturers in the automotive, power, and oil and gas industries.”
Additive manufacturing involves taking digital designs from software and building them layer by layer from metal or plastic powder. Additive components are often lighter, more durable and more efficient than traditional casting and forged parts because they can be made as one piece, requiring fewer welds, joints and assembly. Complex designs are possible.