Steve Bell of Renishaw Singapore discusses the additive manufacturing trend for aerospace parts, and the journey towards Industry 4.0. Article by Stephen Las Marias.
At the recent Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific (ITAP) 2019 event in Singapore, Renishaw (Singapore) Pte Ltd showcased an end-to-end solution involving the production of aerospace blades and its assembly into a blisk. From additive manufacturing, where the aerospace blades were manufactured (Station 1) though metal 3D printing; to the calibration station, which featured Renishaw’s XL80 and XK10 calibration products, designed to make sure that machining processes are as accurate as they can be; to Station 3, which featured a machine tool showing some of Renishaw’s probing technologies, particularly SupaScan, which is a method of using a scanning probe on a machine tool to gather data quickly, and enables set up of a part very accurately. Alongside the machine tool is the Equator gauging system, which makes sure that parts being finished on the machine tool stay within tolerance. Finally, Station 4 showcases the final assembly of the blades into a blisk, which is being inspected on a CMM using a REVO 5-axis scanning technology.
“Basically, we’re looking at a complete, end-to-end story of the part,” says Steve Bell, general manager for ASEAN at Renishaw Singapore. “All of that supplemented by Renishaw Central, a software product that allows you to gather data from the complete mix of Renishaw equipment; and from there, to use the data to make intelligent decisions about your manufacturing processes.
According to Bell, it is the first time for company to attend ITAP. “We heard good things about last year’s ITAP event, so we decided to take part this year,” he says. “What we are seeing is that it is very much focused on automation, smart factory, Industry 4.0—these are all things that are of interest to us as a company. Industry 4.0 is all about connectivity of your equipment, getting useful information from the equipment, and then using that information to make sensible decisions about how you continue your manufacturing process. And all of that is very much what Renishaw is about.”
Growing Aerospace Industry
The aerospace industry in Singapore is a growing market, according to Bell. “It is very much an industry niche within Singapore,” he says.
The challenge, though, is the accuracy, the need for conformity of parts, and the need to reach the approval levels that are essential within the industry.
“The tolerances are constantly getting tighter, so, people are looking for improvements in performance, they are looking for faster, more consistent ways to manufacture parts,” he notes. “These areas are where we think we have a lot to contribute.”
An evolution in the manufacture of aerospace parts is taking place, especially with the emergence of 3D printing. In fact, the blades showcased here by Renishaw feature a hollow lattice-structured central section. “The aim is to make the blades strong, but also as light as possible,” says Bell.
Journey to Industry 4.0
ITAP covers the full gamut of industry—from top level factory management systems, all the way down to shop floor tooling.
“Industry 4.0 is meant to bring all of the diverse parts together, to bring the data on to one single platform where decisions can be made,” says Bell. “So, I think, an exhibition that reflects that, with a focus on Industry 4.0, makes a lot of sense to us.”
According to Bell, people have been talking a lot about Industry 4.0, “but the first signs of real implementation are just beginning to be seen,” he says. The picture across Southeast Asia is quite mixed. While some markets are moving rapidly to Industry 4.0, for others, it is going to take longer toward smart factory implementation.
“I look after Southeast Asia. In Singapore, a lot of the heavy lifting has been done by the Singapore government, so they are pushing the SMEs towards an understanding of Industry 4.0, and hopefully, also implementation. From our point of view as a company, our first requirement is to make sure that our own equipment can be integrated into central systems ; we need to have all the hooks in place so that the data from our equipment can be ported into other factory management systems. That’s exactly what we are trying to showcase at this exhibition.”
Market outlook 2020: The year 2019 has been quite a challenging year for the manufacturing industry, with geopolitical tensions impacting investment decisions and shifts in manufacturing centres, and trends such as e-mobility, Industry 4.0, and additive manufacturing creating industrial transformation. In this Outlook 2020 special, six industry leaders share their thoughts on what to expect in 2020, how the industry will develop, new opportunities and market drivers, and how to navigate through the challenges and issues from these dynamics.
HEXAGON MANUFACTURING INTELLIGENCE
Lim Boon Choon, President, Asia Pacific, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence
The year 2019 was a time of economic uncertainty in global manufacturing. But the Asia Pacific region is well placed to capitalise on new opportunities in 2020, as increasing adoption of disruptive technologies shows organisations are facing market challenges by pursuing innovation-driven competitiveness. The growing recognition of the efficiency and operational excellence to be gained from digitised metrology offers long-term, sustainable investment and expansion in the Asia Pacific market.
The Growth of the Smart Factory
Increasingly connected enterprises will be a continuing trend throughout 2020 and beyond. The digital transformation of quality is a central part of this smart factory vision. Approaches to metrology data are maturing, and companies are focused on gaining actionable insights from real-time data. Growing demand for data analysis software is expected, and the adoption of platforms offering advanced big data and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) capabilities will enable far more predictive and proactive manufacturing.
Across the region, new business models will emerge with the prevalence of cloud computing, connecting quality systems to machines throughout end-to-end processes and across factories. Streamlining the analysis and communication of metrology data is essential to breakdown operational silos and drive growth by enhancing product customisation capabilities and throughput.
The trend of automating metrology operations will continue to grow with the increasing adoption of robotics, measuring cells, and automated part loading, enabling manufacturers to scale up their autonomous capabilities. And as manufacturers look to increase their application flexibility, demand for non-contact 3D scanning technology will increase.
Driving Additive Manufacturing Capabilities
Additive manufacturing, also known as industrial 3D printing, is still emerging in sectors such as medical, transportation and logistics, construction, aviation, automotive, and shipping. But according to research from Thyssenkrupp, 3D printing is expected to create $100 billion in value in the ASEAN region by 2025. Quality will play a central role in expanding this developing process, with technologies such as 3D scanning and computed tomography (CT) for measuring internal geometries. Additive manufacturing is a key area of strategic importance for Hexagon. The recent acquisition of CT software provider Volume Graphics adds advanced measurement capabilities to Hexagon’s already comprehensive solution portfolio in the additive space, which also includes software for generative design and additive process simulation.
The expected widespread adoption of smart technologies suggests 2020 will mark a major step forward on the industry 4.0 journey.
Meir Noybauer, Business Development Manager, ISCAR
Throughout the year 2020, the industry as we know it will shift towards smart factories with IoT (Internet of Things) cyber connectivity, and AI (artificial intelligence) and robotics technologies, that will most likely be developed in the main industrial hubs as part of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0).
Additive Manufacturing and other advanced manufacturing technologies will continue to grow and replace conventional methods for machining automotive, aerospace and energy parts, and facilitate new opportunities for complicated part designs that were previously unrealizable.
The global search for clean energy and low-emission mobility is leaning towards newer and harder materials, which challenge ISCAR to develop advanced machining technologies, such as SiAlON ceramics and super alloy materials, while using high and ultra-high coolant pressure to boost productivities to higher levels never seen before.
The medical sector will be one of the emerging industry segments, with sophisticated implants using advanced materials and machining technologies jointly developed by ISCAR engineers and leading medical implant companies throughout Europe, the US and Eastern Asia.
The automotive segment will continue to be a global industry leader, while transitioning from conventional combustion to small hybrid-high efficiency engines and electric e-drive cars and implementing other clean mobile technologies, specifically for electric charging infrastructures which have not yet been applied in many countries.
Stefano Corradini, Group Director, Sales & Marketing, Marposs
The year 2020 appears to be one of the most challenging years of the last decade, both in the Asia Pacific and worldwide.
The combination of trade wars and their impact on several geographic areas and market sectors, social turmoil in various countries, and many technological changes as consequence of increased environmental concerns, may have a significant negative effect on the general economic situation.
Automotive Manufacturing Evolution
Being a significant part of Marposs business somehow related to the automotive sector, we see the evolution from internal combustion engine (ICE) to electromobility as one of the biggest driver of the economic uncertainty. We prefer, anyway, to see this as an opportunity to offer our existing and new customers an extended panel of solutions, which are moving from our traditional measuring sector to a broader concept including several type of testing equipment (mainly leak test using different type of tracer gas extended also to fuel cells), as well as inspection applications (non-destructive, vision, and similar), and control systems to monitor the whole manufacturing process of the core components of the NEVs/BEVs (new/battery energy vehicles), such as battery cells, modules and packs, battery trays, and electric drive units (EDU) including electric motors; and end of line testing.
We are willing to become a preferred partner of BEV manufacturers and suppliers as we have been for decades for traditional combustion engines, offering them our technical know-how, our innovation culture, and our worldwide organization for sales and after sales.
Steve Bell, General Manager, ASEAN, Renishaw (Singapore) Pte Ltd
Smart manufacturing technologies increase visibility and transparency to manufacturing operations, allowing manufacturers to get the overall picture of their productivity and competitiveness, to make faster changes in response to market-based threats or opportunities. This requires a range of intelligent process control solutions throughout the factory, to ensure high standards of repeatability. The key is going digital—connecting physical manufacturing processes with the digital technology to make decisions about process improvement on the shop floor, or on mobile devices.
Flexible and Customised
Additive manufacturing plays a major role in the Industry 4.0 revolution, allowing manufacturers the flexibility to build highly customised parts. Renishaw’s additive manufacturing technologies continue to evolve, aiming to provide users the flexibility to use, change and manage different metal materials, enables users to adapt to meet market demand and configure processes to achieve optimal performance.
Focus on Automotive Industry
Ensuring businesses are equipped and ready to navigate the evolving automotive manufacturing landscape, Renishaw’s manufacturing solutions provide the speed, flexibility, and ease of use to help companies adapt their production capabilities for the evolving electric future. From multi-sensor rapid scanning of machined castings to material analysis of fuel cells, we will continue to support customers on the road from internal combustion engine (ICE) to electric vehicles (EV).
SIEMENS DIGITAL INDUSTRIES SOFTWARE
Alex Teo, Managing Director, Southeast Asia, Siemens Digital Industries Software
The maturity of manufacturing supply chains in Asia has undoubtedly exerted pressure on the metalworking industry to be more competitive than ever. Demand for steel in Asia is expected to rise by an average of 1.5 percent in 2020, and will likely see effects such as rising operating costs necessitating the move for businesses to look for technology driven solutions to relieve some of these operational strains. In particular, Southeast Asia is an exciting region for growth, with markets such as Malaysia, Vietnam, and Singapore making strides in realising their Industry 4.0 visions through digitalisation. In 2020, we also launched a Technical Competency Hub in Penang, the first in the region, which serves as a platform for Siemens to help companies, especially SMEs, begin their digitalisation journey in order to meet the needs of the new economy.
Using digital twins, manufacturers will be able to explore more economical and structurally enhanced materials. By leveraging physics-based simulations, supported by data analytics in an entirely virtual environment, the expansion of production capacity in Asia can be further encouraged. This means that manufacturers can optimise their choice of materials by testing and analysing combinations of different metals and alloys digitally before using additive manufacturing technologies such as powder bed fusion to produce these components faster and more reliably, reducing the need and cost for real prototypes.
Siemens’ end-to-end additive manufacturing solutions cover CAD/CAM/CAE models that enable product design and simulation of production processes and planning, preparation, and verification of the print jobs. Simulation and 3D modelling allow for advanced complexity of design and quality, ultimately resulting in fewer distortions and errors. The goal is flawless execution when parts come out of a factory, ready for certification. The full additive challenge covers the entire value chain: product design, production process, and performance.
Using customisable solutions for pressing, transporting, positioning and press safety, in combination with simulation for the entire spectrum of metal forming, businesses can proactively advance with components working seamlessly together. This collaboration increases the cost-effectiveness of all production processes in all sectors, reducing energy costs.
The economic environment for the international and German machine tool industry remains difficult now and in the coming months. After eight years of high economic activity in the international machine tool industry, global demand for capital goods has calmed considerably after the fourth quarter of 2018. The reasons for this have already been identified and discussed many times. The economic distortions, in particular the trade war between the United States and China, are boosting the already sharp drop in demand. The increasing protectionism at all levels is affecting world trade and international supply chains. Finally, the structural shift in the automotive industry towards new drive technologies is causing further problems. It is still questionable at what pace and extent development is progressing and which technologies will be used in the future. The entire scenario is unsettling the industry worldwide. Companies have become very cautious, and they are shifting their investments.
Because of these, incoming orders in the international machine tool industry fell sharply in all regions in the first nine months of 2019. According to initial estimates, orders worldwide fell by 21 percent. Asia declined by 24 percent, while Europe lost 19 percent of its orders. Contracts in America, which is particularly the United States, held up best, if we can say so. They went down 18 percent in comparison to the previous year. In Germany, with its high dependence on exports, incoming orders fell by 23 percent by October in 2019, the most recent available data. This applies equally to domestic and foreign orders.
Markets to Stabilise
Oxford Economics, the VDW’s forecasting partner, expects this trend to stabilise in the best case scenario for 2020. At 2.5 percent, global economic output is expected to be slightly below the increase in 2019. With 2.1 percent, industrial production will grow more strongly than the current year. This also applies to investments. Stabilisation is also expected for the whole German economy. Industrial production, which is expected to shrink in 2019, is likely to turn slightly up again. This means that incoming orders in the machine tool industry will probably go through the bottom in the course of the coming year.
Machine tool consumption, a late indicator, will remain negative in all regions. Asia is the exception. Manufacturers can draw new hope from the fact that the election results in Great Britain have now provided certainty about the island’s exit date from the European Union. Then, the negotiations on a tariff agreement can begin and hopefully lead to a good end. There is also movement in the trade conflict between the United States and China. Should a consensus be reached, the world economy will reach new momentum as well.
Renishaw is collaborating with Sandvik Additive Manufacturing to qualify new additive manufacturing (AM) materials for production applications. This encompasses a broad range of metal powders, including new alloy compositions that are optimised for the laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) process and which provide superior material properties.
Sandvik has worked with Renishaw AM systems since 2018 at its Additive Manufacturing Centre in Sandviken, Sweden. During this time, the two companies have worked together to develop process parameters for a range of Sandvik metal powders, including stainless and maraging steels, and the latest Osprey nickel-based superalloys. Sandvik has recently inaugurated a state-of-the-art titanium atomiser and powder processing facility and will now turn its focus to qualifying these alloys for industrial and medical applications.
TOP ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING/3D PRINTING ARTICLES FOR THE MONTH
“With our 157-year materials knowledge, our comprehensive range of in-house Osprey steels, duplex and super-duplex stainless steels, as well as nickel-based alloys and our new titanium powders, Sandvik now offers the widest range of AM materials to the market,” said Mikael Schuisky, VP R&D and Operations at Sandvik Additive Manufacturing. “Renishaw’s open machines have enabled us to rapidly optimise process parameters for our alloys for use in many different applications.”
This parameter development work has highlighted opportunities to make small but important changes to the composition of Sandvik alloys, whilst remaining within the relevant ASTM specification, to optimise the mechanical properties of LPBF components. Examples of this include a maraging steel with enhanced strength and hardness, and a crack-free Osprey HX nickel superalloy.
“Much of the innovation in AM in the next few years will come from the pairing of enhanced machine performance with improved alloys,” explained Stephen Crownshaw, AM Business Manager at Renishaw. “Better alloys mean better material properties, enabling the manufacture of AM components that are even more efficient and cost-effective. The consistency of Renishaw’s latest AM systems, combined with Sandvik’s material expertise, provides tremendous opportunities to advance AM processes and to make a stronger business case for AM.”
In an interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News, Steve Bell of Renishaw Singapore provides his insights into and outlook for the Vietnam and Philippine metalworking industry.
Steve Bell is the general manager for ASEAN at Renishaw (Singapore) Pte Ltd. In this interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News (APMEN), we talk about Renishaw’s activities, and his outlook on the metalworking industry markets of Vietnam and the Philippines.
FOR THOSE WHO ARE NEW TO THIS INDUSTRY, GIVE US A BRIEF BACKGROUND ON RENISHAW.
Steve Bell (SB): Renishaw is a long-established UK company. Our core activities primarily involve inspection and manufacturing process control. We have many solutions and technologies which help to apply high levels of automation and connectivity to fit any manufacturing process. This in turn boosts the efficiency and quality of manufacturing. These include probes used to set up and inspect parts on machine tools, tool setters and advanced 5 axis probing systems designed to check dimensions of components on CMMs.
Our machine tool systems centre on methodologies to implement in-process control with the aim of increasing throughput and improving quality. We branch into other essential areas like calibration—we have many products connected with machine setup, because unless the machines are set up properly, no matter what you do, you will never make the products right. Our calibration products include the XK10 alignment laser used during machine build, the XL80 calibration laser system and the popular QC20W ball-bar employed to do regular health checks on machine performance.
Moving on, we have the Equator automated measuring gauge, which has been designed for use in a production environment. It is used for immediate checking of parts coming off a machine tool as an alternative to manual or custom gauging. Intelligent Process Control (IPC) allows Equator to inspect a part, gather data from the inspection and use that data to update the tool offsets on the machine tool controller to ensure that future parts stay in tolerance. That’s a very efficient way to manufacture, where you are not waiting for the end of the process to find out that something’s wrong; you are making sure parts stay correct all the way through the process.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE TRENDS YOU ARE SEEING?
SB: Basically, everyone wants to make the best products as quickly as possible and as cost effectively as possible. That’s what’s driving the trends in the first place. And one of the significant trends that we are seeing is the drive towards automation. And the reason for automation, from a Renishaw point of view, is its main benefit—consistency of manufacturing.
Deploying automation, systems are programmed in advance, meaning intervention and the possibility of human error is minimised or eliminated.
So, for us, automation is about increasing throughput, but also getting that consistency, which in turn, leads to quality.
WHAT ARE THE OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES IN THE VIETNAM MARKET?
SB: The biggest challenge for the moment for us is that the market, after many years of being very buoyant, is now a little bit flat. A lot of this, I think, comes from international trade tensions; hopefully that is a relatively short-term problem, and things will get back on track.
But I think the longer-term prognosis is very good. We are going to see substantial growth here, particularly with a lot of manufacturing not necessarily moving out of China, but expanding beyond China, to Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand.
WHAT ABOUT THE PHILIPPINES?
SB: We’ve been active in the Philippines for many years. In particularly, we’ve worked with MESCO, our distributor, for 20-plus years. Frankly speaking, in terms of Southeast Asia, the Philippine market for manufacturing and automation is starting from a fairly low base point compared to, let’s say, Thailand, or some other Southeast Asian countries. But having said that, it is also the fastest growing market in the region from that low base. So, for us, it is an important market to be involved with now, and to start to work with in the future as well.
In the Philippines, what we see are manufacturers of consumer goods arriving—a couple of big brands are already active here in the Philippines—we also see a growing market for automotive subcontractors; so those kinds of companies are interested to streamline their manufacturing, improve quality—the kind of things that we bring through our gauging and in-process products.
Regarding challenges, there have been quite a few over the years in the Philippines where the market has been very flat. But as I said, at this point in time, it is definitely a growing market. We can see a big potential for growth. There are manufacturing investments coming in from Europe, the United States, other parts of Asia, and very often, when these companies are investing and setting up new plants, they are starting from a greenfield site—they are not inheriting previous manufacturing systems. So, because of that, when they do come in, they start at the current level of technology—moving straight into the best practices of manufacturing today, utilising automation, making use of all the latest technologies that are available to them. For us, that’s very exciting.
HOW IS THE MARKET FOR 3D PRINTING OR ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING?
SB: That’s also a growing market from small beginnings in ASEAN. Singapore is definitely the leader in this technology for now.
Metal AM is very much a niche market at the moment in the Philippines. We hope to see some growth in the longer term.
The real growth in additive manufacturing will come when users start to think about using the technology for real production—not just design prototypes or research but manufacturing parts on a 24/7 basis—and we’re already seeing that now with some customers in Singapore. That trend is likely to spread out across Asia. In Singapore in particular, we are seeing opportunities in the oil and gas and aerospace sectors.
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THE INDUSTRY? ARE YOU SEEING A BREAKTHROUGH APPLICATION OR TREND THAT WILL DRIVE THE METALWORKING INDUSTRY FURTHER?
SB: Everyone is driving for the same kind of goals, and I think the key thing that is changing is the push towards automation. Automation means, of course, manufacturing process automation but it also encompasses the associated innovations in collecting and managing actionable data about equipment and devices, processes and parts… all of these contribute towards the smart factory/smart manufacturing concept.
That’s probably the number one trend—automation making possible a drive towards advances in consistency, throughput, product quality and cost-effective manufacturing.
Renishaw has collaborated with two advanced technology companies to demonstrate the advantages of additive manufacturing (AM) in the production of spinal implants. By working with Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) and nTopology, the project shows how streamlined the transition from design to AM can be when working with the right partners.
Manufacturing research organisation IMR designed a representative titanium spinal implant, aimed at the cervical spine (c spine), using advanced manufacturing software company nTopology’s generative design software. IMR then manufactured the implants using Renishaw’s RenAM 500M metal AM system.
“AM can be used to manufacture spinal implants with lattice structures, which cannot be achieved with conventional manufacturing techniques,” explained Ed Littlewood, Marketing Manager of Renishaw’s Medical and Dental Products Division. “An implant with a lattice structure is lightweight, can be optimised to meet the required loading conditions and has a greater surface area, which can aid osseointegration. Therefore, AM implants can be designed to mimic the mechanical properties of bone, resulting in better patient outcomes. But all of this comes to nothing if you do not have the tools to create the design.”
“Traditional CAD tools weren’t built to design complex lattice structures; the job would be difficult or even impossible.” Explains Matt Rohr, nTopology’s Application Engineering Manager. “nTopology was designed to complement existing workflows and make the job easier. We cut the design time of complex structures from days to minutes which was a crucial component in helping this project run to schedule.”
“Renishaw worked tirelessly with us on improving the AM process for producing the spinal implants,” commented Sean McConnell, Senior Research Engineer at IMR. “Together, we designed a set of experiments that yield the most appropriate parameter settings for the product. As a result, we reduced the amount of post processing required on key features of the implants by a factor of ten.”
Patients with medical conditions including degenerative disc disease, herniated disc, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis and osteoporosis can require spinal implants to restore intervertebral height. The improved implant design made possible by AM means patients may require shorter surgery time and fewer revision surgeries, saving healthcare resources and costs.
Renishaw recently collaborated with Domin Fluid Power to help the company maximise productivity when designing and manufacturing direct drive valves. Using metal additive manufacturing (AM) techniques, the company can now manufacture smaller, more efficient drives and reduce cycle times from five and a half hours to just one.
“Metal AM allows you to stretch the art of what is possible in the fluid power sector,” explained Marcus Pont, General Manager of Domin Fluid Power. “After spending years on testing different prototypes and designs we have developed our knowledge in AM that will enable us to produce efficient parts for customers. For example, we have designed one of our drives that is 25 per cent of the original size, 25 percent more powerful and produced at a third of the cost.”
“We’ve worked with Domin throughout the whole process, from investigating material properties, to exploring the advantages of using the latest technologies, such as the RenAM 500Q, in production,” said Martin McMahon, AM Lead Technical Consultant at Renishaw.
“Additive manufacturing is a key technology for Domin,” continued McMahon. “It gives the company the ability to build complex parts, free of tooling and with minimal operations and assembly. Trying to integrate such complex functionality into such a small design would not be possible using conventional manufacturing techniques.”
Manufacturers in a wide variety of sectors can use AM technology to improve productivity in high value, small volume production. Renishaw’s latest system, the RenAM 500Q, is currently broadening the market appeal of AM into applications that were previously uneconomical due to its efficiency. The compact system features four 500 W lasers to speed up the printing process by up to four times, improving productivity and lowering cost per part.
The recent emergence of the term additive manufacturing (AM) bears witness to an ongoing transformation in the use of additive technologies, away from low volume 3D printing and towards series manufacturing. This article by Renishaw explores the drivers behind this trend to industrial AM, and the technical developments that will be critical success factors in this transition.
What do we mean by industrial AM? Firstly, we are talking about a factory floor process rather than one that is used in the research lab or tool room, in which the focus is on making parts for series production rather than prototypes or tooling. Here, our goal is to use the unique capabilities of AM to maximise product performance, rather than merely to compress manufacturing lead times.
The outputs of an industrial AM processes are consistent, qualified parts that exhibit high integrity and that are suited to a long service life, rather than shapes for modelling or evaluation. Materials are chosen for their strength and integrity rather than their cosmetic appearance or ease of processing.
And finally, we need to consider far more than just the 3D printing aspect of an industrial AM process, extending our thinking to include the entire process chain that is necessary to design, build, finish and verify the AM products:
From research lab onto the factory floor
From prototypes and tooling to series production
From time compression to higher product performance
From shapes to consistent, qualified parts
From plastics to high performance alloys
From 3D printing to an integrated production process
Drivers For Industrialisation
In previous articles we introduced a staircase model of AM deployment which shows the progression that many firms go through in their use of AM. The higher staircase levels involve more sophisticated design for AM (DfAM) practices.
As you climb the staircase you use more and more capabilities of AM to create increasingly valuable products. The lower steps are primarily about production benefits such as time compression, tooling elimination and minimal material waste. As you move up through part consolidation and into DfAM optimised parts, your focus increasingly shifts to the impact that AM can have on product performance and the lifetime benefits that accrue as a result.
So, the value of industrial AM lies more in the product than in the production process. It is these product performance benefits that will ultimately drive the industrialisation of AM.
By creating products that perform in new and better ways, or by using AM to deploy new business models that provide a superior service to customers, we will create the value that will justify investment in AM processes and factories.
This industrialisation will apply in many fields, and not just in early-adopter sectors such as aerospace and medical devices. Look out for lightweight, efficient, attractive and customised AM products in many other markets, including consumer products.
Integrated Manufacturing Process Chains
I have said earlier that for an industrial AM process, we must consider more than just the additive process step. To be useful, every manufacturing process needs an effective chain of tools that work together to design, prepare, produce, control and verify the output.
AM is not an island: producing near-net shape parts is nowhere near enough when you’re looking in a production context. Anyone who promises that AM can make you anything you want is not telling the whole truth – few parts on exhibition booths are in the raw state that they emerged from the AM machine.
So, AM must be underpinned by an effective process chain with user-friendly design tools and a range of postprocessing and metrology activities before the parts it makes can be used in anger. Information must flow up and down the chain to link processes together, with control loops being used to minimise process variation:
Process chains of this type are now emerging, although the tools involved are not yet integrated and mature. A good example of this is the work that we have done with Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing to develop a manifold component for the £80m America’s Cup sailboat. The video below explains how the manifold is designed, as well as the chain of processes that are necessary to build, gauge, finish and inspect it.
Future Process Chains
The ideal process chain for industrial AM will start with CAD tools that are optimised for AM part design – an area of high focus for the CAD sector just now. Parts will be designed for AM from the ground up, rather than undergoing an adaptation process from a conventional design as something of an afterthought.
We also need close links between CAD and the world of AM build file preparation and post-process development. Our process development thinking must include optimisation across all the steps in the process chain, so that we don’t minimise costs in the build only to see them rise again in complex or manual finishing processes.
As it is in all manufacturing processes, metrology is the ‘golden thread’ through this process, transferring datums, providing feedback and verifying conformance. At each link in the chain, process controls act to minimise variation and deliver predictable outcomes
CAD tools optimised for AM part design
Integrated build file preparation and post-process development
Metrology as a ‘golden thread’ through the process
Process controls to minimise variation at each link in the chain
Productive AM processes
Successful industrial processes are productive and predictable. Variation is the enemy of productivity and it can be squeezed out through rigorous control of the environment, inputs, set-up and operation of each process step.
We are used to taking this approach with conventional manufacturing processes such as machining. This rigour underpins the automated factories that produce everything from the sleek phone in your pocket, to the fuel-efficient car you drive and the reliable aircraft that you fly in.
Renishaw uses a framework that it calls the Productive Process Pyramid to identify and control manufacturing process variation. Well-proven in the metal cutting arena, it applies equally to industrial AM. It comprises four layers:
Process foundation – Preventative controls applied in advance to ensure that process inputs and the operating environment are consistent.
Process setting – Predictive controls applied just before processing to ensure that the machine is ready to make good parts.
In-process control – Active controls applied during the process itself to monitor and respond to drift and unexpected errors.
Post-process verification – Informative controls applied after manufacturing is complete to verify the integrity of the output.
Additive manufacturing’s development from a prototyping technology into a mainstream production process will be driven by applications that make use of AM’s capability to produce high-performing products that cannot be made any other way.
Capable production processes will be supported by chains of tools that span the entire production process from design to verification, not just the AM process step. And industrial AM processes will be underpinned by layers of control that minimise variation and certify AM production quality.
With all this in place, AM can take its rightful place in the family of advanced manufacturing technologies used for series production.
The market for specialist metal additive manufacturing (AM) services is rapidly evolving as more and more companies realise the advantages of metal additive manufacturing offers over more traditional design and manufacturing techniques. A case study by Renishaw.
Global Metal AM company 3D Metalforge was founded in Singapore at the end of 2016. A sister company of 3D Matters, one of South East Asia’s fast-growing additive manufacturers, the company was established in response to rapidly increasing demand for high accuracy three-dimensional metal part manufacturing.
Industrial customer requirements for 3D metal printing services are changing dramatically in the region, from a predominance of short-run prototyping and one-off model-making to more volume production of end-use parts. This demanded a dedicated new production facility with a significant investment in metal additive machinery.
Matthew Waterhouse, CEO of 3D Metalforge explains, “Customers moved very quickly from a position of not really knowing that certain parts could actually be printed in metal, to the point where they understood the advantages of metal additive manufacturing over traditional manufacturing and the part complexities and high quality that could be achieved.”
As an all-new venture in a rapidly evolving manufacturing sector, 3D Metalforge sets stringent selection criteria for its metal additive system purchases. Faced with a wide range of alternatives, the company needed to be certain that the capital investments it made would provide its customers with the service they needed today and well into the future.
Additive production samples needed to demonstrate high-quality and the ability to produce a wide range of fine line, high complexity parts.
Technical support from the manufacturer needed to be locally-based, for both pre- and post-sale phases.
System reliability is paramount for end-use part production, it needed to be proven.
The system needed to be easy to use, with a minimal learning curve.
The manufacturer will also need to show clear knowledge and understanding of manufacturing and typical 3D Metalforge operations.
3D Metalforge is also very mindful of emerging Industry 4.0 trends. The metal additive systems they purchased would also need to be capable of supporting the key design principles of the ‘fourth industrial revolution,’ including data transparency, connectivity and human-machine interface.
Mr. Waterhouse comments, “We see metal additive manufacturing as an integral part of Industry 4.0, something that’s at the forefront of future manufacturing change. Forward-thinking companies in Singapore and rest of Asia are fully embracing the Industry 4.0 concept and we needed to reflect that in our decision-making.”
Hardware and support
One of the first systems to meet 3D Metalforge’s selection criteria was Renishaw’s small footprint AM 400 additive manufacturing system. With a 250mm x 250mm x 300mm build volume, the system is equipped with a 400W laser system with a beam diameter of just 70μm. Its human-machine interface is highly graphical and intuitive in nature.
Following an ‘open parameter’ ethos, the AM 400 provides 3D Metalforge with the freedom to optimise machine data settings to suit the metal powder being processed and specific target geometry. The system’s inert gas atmosphere is class-leading and its ‘SafeChange’ handling system minimises contact with powders and process emissions.
Mr. Waterhouse says, “Renishaw was already well known to us through its precision measurement technology, its co-ordinate measuring machines and so forth. Importantly, Renishaw clearly understood manufacturing, it knew about material setup, calibration and how we wanted our new facility to operate.”
For the vast majority of the work undertaken with Renishaw AM 400 additive manufacturing system, 3D Metalforge uses Solid Works software for initial 3D CAD design, along with Autodesk to work on part printability when required.
Renishaw’s QuantAM, a dedicated build preparation software, is then used to optimise support structures, for aligning the part within the build volume and setting up the final print file.
3D Metalforge also uses Renishaw’s InfiniAM Central, a software specifically designed for remote process monitoring of additive manufacturing systems. Providing near real-time insight into live additive manufacturing builds and access to historic build data, it displays system information in a highly graphical form enabling intuitive in-depth analysis.
The Renishaw additive manufacturing system has become one of 3D Metalforge’s busiest and most utilised metal 3D printer, with machine up-time, accuracy and reliability cited as extremely good by Mr. Waterhouse.
He shares an example on how 3D Metalforge provided a complete end-to-end metal 3D printing service to a technology equipment company. The equipment company looked for a way to optimize its part, a metal tray, and improved its in-product performance. Unable to achieve desired design goals using traditional manufacturing techniques, the company approached 3D Metalforge for an alternative metal printed solution.
Since the original part design wasn’t optimised for AM, it was first re-designed. 3D Metalforge introduced lattice structures to reduce weight and new shaping to enhance part alignment. A few prototypes were produced and tested within the end-product assembly before finalising the part design.
A few hundred of these intricate metal parts have so far been produced using the AM 400 system for a quality control pass rate of 100 percent. The AM design has reduced the weight whilst enhancing its performance.
The co-ordinate measuring machine (CMM) has become an indispensable tool in the process control regimes of modern production lines. Whether in-line or off-line, CMMs provide the most accurate measurements of parts ranging from turbine blades to engine piston rings.
This case study explores how DUKIN designs CMMs that minimise measurement errors through robust mechanical design and position feedback and how the recent expansion of the DUKIN product range to cover a variety of different accuracy and capacity requirements has been supported by Renishaw.
DUKIN Co., Ltd., based in Korea, designs and manufactures a wide range of coordinate measurement machines (CMMs) that meet standard to ultra-high precision levels of metrology requirements in the electronics, automotive, aerospace and other industries.
These CMMs are used to capture three-dimensional measurement data on high precision, machined components such as car engine cylinders and aircraft engine blades as part of a quality control process.
The CMMs integrate either Renishaw optical or laser encoder systems to meet varying metrology challenges.
Linear position encoders are used in conjunction with Renishaw contact and vision probing systems to measure discrete points on a workpiece. This data is then used to ensure that parts meet predetermined tolerances.
Manufacturers require CMMs that achieve high performance and system stability, which is affected by temperature fluctuations and greatly impacts overall accuracy. The instability in linear position measurements taken on the gantry axis affects inspection throughput and measurement accuracy.
Even when deploying Renishaw’s high speed 5-axis systems, which synchronise the movement of the 3 axes of the CMM and the 2 axes of the measuring head to inspect the part, the stability of the linear position measurements is important.
DUKIN uses Renishaw’s PH20 and REVO 5-axis probe systems on their CMMs with the understanding that robust CMM design is essential to realise the full performance potential of these measurement systems.
System designers at DUKIN deploy robust design principles and use high quality materials and components to minimise the amount of measurement error. These mechanical design approaches are applied in conjunction with software that compensate for errors caused by thermal expansion.
A combination of statistical and theoretical modelling and accurate live measurements of position and acceleration are used for force feed-forward control of the CMM’s motor driven axes.
For example, in a CMM bridge design; the X-axis (along the bridge) is driven along two guideways in the Y-axis direction where each shoulder of the bridge is driven by a linear system equipped with a separate servo motor.
To prevent a torque moment in the Z-axis direction and thereby distortion of the bridge structure, force feed-forward control is applied by the controller. This depends on the detected position of the measurement head as it moves along the X-axis guideway and the setpoint acceleration along the Y-axis.
Alternatively, comparison of the accelerations of the Y-axis guideways may provide additional feedback control of the bridge moment. Dependable, high-accuracy, position encoders are vital for these complex control regimes to work. A combination of a priori data and position and acceleration feedback in the X-, Y- and Z- axis directions are used to give the highest-levels of metrology performance.
Renishaw encoders and scales are used across the full range of CMMs offered by DUKIN and the TONiC incremental encoder system with RTLC linear scale is installed on DUKIN’s gantry and bridge-type models.
RTLC is a low profile stainless steel tape scale featuring a 20 µm pitch. It is accurate to ±5 µm/m and may be ordered in lengths of up to 10 m. Any thermal expansion of RTLC scale is independent of the substrate as it is suspended in a carrier track, which maintains an air gap underneath the scale. As temperature changes occur in the CMM operating environment, the RTLC scale does not follow the same degree of deformation as the granite base. Thermal compensation is therefore greatly simplified – particularly in temperature controlled environments with the encoder scales and workpiece(s) in thermal equilibrium.
TONiC’s dynamic signal processing gives improved signal stability with ultra-low Sub-Divisional Error of typically <±30 nm to help realize superior motion control performance.
Regarding the role of Reinshaw’s innovations in DUKIN’s product lines, DUKIN Technical Manager, Tae Young Ku, has emphasized the important contribution of Renishaw’s encoder products by stating that: “We offer a wide range of CMM product lines, including standard, high precision and ultra-high precision models, depending on the type of position feedback. We have adopted Renishaw’s TONiC encoder series and the ultra-high precision RLE interferometry laser encoder system. The high-performance TONiC encoder is the most widely used and has been integrated into our CHAMP, HERO and VICTOR CMMs.”
In the face of global skills shortages and rapidly emerging Industry 4.0 trends, Taiwanese CNC machine manufacturer, Hartford, sought to develop an innovative, easier-to-use human machine interface (HMI) for its CNC machines. At the same time the company strived to ensure process measurement and inspection at its CNC machine manufacturing operations could keep pace with the company’s ever-improving product quality goals.
Achieving The Goal Of “Intelligent Manufacturing”
At Hartford’s manufacturing facility in Taiwan, the company produces a complete range of medium to large-sized three-axis and five-axis CNC machines for use in major industry sectors including the aerospace, automotive, electronics and energy industries. And with more than 95 percent of the company’s cast components being manufactured and machined in-house, a continuous and progressive approach towards quality inspection is essential for achieving the precision required for a wide range of machine components, including machine heads, spindles and automatic tool changers.
However, a widespread shortage of skilled labour has presented Hartford with a further vital challenge to address, as Mr. Bruce Lin, Manager of Hartford’s R&D Intelligent Technology Department explained:
“Our customers [need] to process work pieces of increasing complexity, however a lack of skilled labour means they are having to insist on machining centres that are even simpler to use.”
Intelligent HMI Through Renishaw’s App
Hartford has invested significant resources into the research and development of intelligent CNC controllers in recent years and developed the Hartrol Plus, which is an intelligent controller that is as simple to use as a smartphone.
The HMI provided by the Hartrol Plus CNC controller follows key design principles promoted by Industry 4.0 ideals and helps address skills shortages. It provides machine operators with all the information they need to make the right decisions. The way in which it visualises data also helps operators to make more informed decisions and solve problems rapidly.
Furthermore, by integrating Renishaw’s Set and Inspect on-machine app with Hartford’s new controller, users can now exploit advances in automated measurement and data collection, making machine tool operation and human-machine interactions simpler and more intuitive. This is because, Set and Inspect is a highly visual graphical user interface (GUI) which leads the operator through every step of on-machine probing processes including workpiece set-up, tool setting and other measurement tasks.
Hence, operators no longer need to commit machine code instructions to memory. This reduces data entry errors and programming times and facilitates processing efficiency by as much as 20 percent.
Precision Measurement For High Quality CNC Manufacturing
Hartford began using Renishaw products more than 20 years ago. In order to meet its stringent high-quality objectives, the company has introduced a variety of Renishaw high-precision measurement systems.
The precision of all CNC machined components it manufactures is verified using Renishaw PH20 5-axis probes on co-ordinate measuring machines (CMMs). This happens before components enter the assembly line, to ensure that they are ready to be assembled.
Precise assembly and positioning of machine tools is also critically important, with five-axis machine tools needing to be positioned with a deviation of less than ±6 µm. A Renishaw XL-80 laser interferometer is used to measure machine position and both linear and angular errors. The XL-80 generates an extremely stable laser beam with a wavelength that conforms to international standards. Linear measurement accuracy of ±0.5 ppm can be guaranteed, thanks to a precision stabilised laser source and accurate environmental compensation. Hartford uses the Renishaw QC20-W ballbar measurement system to perform cross-validation at different operating speeds to ensure that X- and Y-axes of the machine tool are correctly matched, and errors are kept down to less than 5 µm.
Every Hartford CNC machine not only undergoes 100 percent laser verification and ballbar testing before dispatch, it can also use the customer’s own workpiece for processing verification, with Renishaw OMP40, OMP60 and RMP60 machine tool measurement probes used to measure the precision of the processed work piece.
Axiset Check-Up For Rotation Centre Compensation
Hartford also uses Renishaw AxiSet Check-Up to analyse the performance of machine rotary axes. Compatible with common 5-axis and multi-axis machines, it provides CNC machine users with a fast and accurate way to check the location of rotary axis pivot points and automatically compensate if necessary.
Most importantly, AxiSet Check-Up does not need to rely on operator experience, as the operator can simply call up the relevant program and press “Cycle Start” to complete the test process in just a few minutes. Data is automatically recorded into parameters for use in analysis, further guaranteeing the standardisation of every machine tool produced.
Regarding this, Mr. Lin has said, “We also recommend that users use AxiSet Check-Up to test the machines’ rotary axes after they are installed, as factory conditions may differ significantly from Hartford’s manufacturing conditions, in terms of foundations and how level surfaces are. Shipping and installation can also cause precision errors, so AxiSet Check-Up’s automatic compensation allows machine tools to maintain high levels of precision and quality.”
He continued that, “All machine tools can suffer from wear and drift after a certain period of usage, with the level of precision of their positioning declining over time and causing a correspondingly poor level of machining precision. We therefore recommend that users perform scheduled checks on machine tools using AxiSet Check-Up every 6 to 12 months, in order to ensure that the level of machining precision remains consistent and productivity remains high.”