The third annual TIPE 3D Printing Conference—a global virtual event focusing on technology, industry, people and economies—was held Jan. 24-26.
The event aims to enhance the visibility of female leaders and to support newcomers to the additive manufacturing industry, and is produced by a team of volunteers who hail mainly from the non-profit Women in 3D Printing (Wi3DP) and SME, a non-profit association of manufacturing professionals. With 186 speakers (all women), 51 sponsors, more than 2,230 delegates and two career fairs at this year’s installment, it’s safe to say the event has grown into a veritable information hub for the additive manufacturing industry.
A “State of 3D Printing Industry” keynote presented by Stephanie Hendrixson, executive editor, Additive Manufacturing Media, highlighted trends that are affecting 3D printing and areas where 3D printing is finding its stride. Among others, these areas include healthcare (for example, point-of-care systems) and how these systems support digitization by supporting precision, accessibility and affordability. In addition, Hendrixson pinpointed space exploration, electrification and design for automotive, as well as the use of new materials as industries to watch.
The takeaway message from the presentation was that additive manufacturing is changing conventional definitions of production and what it means to be a manufacturer. Production does not have to be centralized anymore, she said, because 3D printing supports distributed manufacturing applications.
“The upshot is that 3D printing is becoming democratized and being reshored, it is bringing more diverse people into manufacturing (sphere),” said Hendrixson. “You don’t have to be an engineer or manufacturing expert. You can be a dental technician, a parent, a designer—you can be just somebody with a good idea. And that is a big part of what we are celebrating at TIPE 3D this week.”
Staying on Track
Appealing to a range of interests and expertise, attendees could select topics from four tracks: industry, technology, people and economics. Among the highlights:
- Strategize Rightshoring with Industrial AM
- Elevate Yourself in a Technical Role: How to Use Additive Manufacturing as a Tool in the Tool Box
- Aerospace Panel
- Polymer AM Technologies for Transformative Manufacturing
- Microwave Sintering of Metal Fused Filament Fabrication Printed Parts
- Production AM for Critical Applications
- 3D Printing for Space
- Patenting 3D Printing Innovations: Why, When, How, and Who
- Trends in Medical 3D Printing
Production AM for Critical Applications: Show and Tell
In a separate panel hosted by Hendrixson, panelists were asked to describe examples of mission-critical components that are made using AM methods. Paula Clares, an additive manufacturing engineer at Cumberland Additive, demonstrated the difference between a 3D-printed titanium bracket for an aerospace application versus a traditionally manufactured bracket.
“Companies in aerospace are printing brackets based on some variation of a brand,” Clares said. “The major differentiator is when they incorporate the benefits for AM, such as when that part uses some sort of lightweighting technique, if it’s using some complex geometry, if it’s using AM for parts consolidation or if it is to effect shorter lead times.”
The 3D-printed titanium bracket was part of an Airbus aircraft pylon, she said, and was printed to the exact specifications of a traditionally manufactured bracket. In this case, said Clares, “the client wanted the exact geometries and mechanical performance as the original, but merely wanted the benefit of having an additional source.”
Although the bracket was the first developed and accepted for commercial aircrafts, the client did not take advantage of the benefits that AM can provide, noted Clares.
Clares held up a second bracket design to compare the different geometry and lightweighting effects when the same bracket was designed with the efficiencies AM could offer. “In this example we are exploiting the talents of additive,” she said.
At Velo3D, compressors and impellers are bread-and-butter parts, said panelist SJ Jones, technical sales engineer, Velo3D. “Oil and gas customers come to us because we can print at pretty low angles without having to put any material inside,” said Jones.
Impellers are core components of compressors and turbochargers. Jones explained that shrouded impeller designs are typically 5-axis machined with the shroud (covering) and impeller created as separate pieces and brazed or welded together. Additional complexities can add to the manufacturing expense and are time-consuming. In an additive workflow, by contrast, parts are consolidated, said Jones. Velo3D produces shrouded impellers up to a 12-in. diameter, and with shroud angles down to 5 deg., without requiring supports.
Panelist Pam Waterman, senior application engineer, 3D Printing, PADT Inc., pointed to Boom Supersonic’s hypersonic airplane as an example from the polymer side. “Jigs and fixtures are kind of the unsung hero,” said Waterman. “You know, thousands and thousands and thousands have been used already.”
As an example, she pointed to a drill guide that is used for drilling holes in the airframe of the Boom supersonic demonstrator, XB-1. In the assembly of its titanium fuselage, Boom relied on metrology to position holes one at a time. But when engineers turned to 3D-printed drill blocks that incorporate multiple holes, they could use metrology to accurately position more than 20 holes, instead of just one at a time.
Since signing a seven-year partnership with Stratasys in 2019, Boom has integrated AM for tooling, prototypes and test benches, which further enabled rapid iteration of design cycles. In particular, it helps engineers connect the CAD and close the loop on what the actual part will look like. Parts and components could be produced on site, while saving hundreds of hours of work time.
Similarly, Waterman said AM techniques can be applied for making critical parts in the automotive industry, where she has worked with clients on timesaving solutions. “Think of trying to come up with a fixture in a mold and whatever process you were going to use to make that part in the automotive world,” explained Waterman. “You would have to be doing hundreds of thousands to make it worthwhile, and we were able to design it, print it and turn it around in a day because we needed just one. So, the numbers are very relevant on both ends to why 3D printing can be important.”
Recordings of speaker presentations and videos will be uploaded to the Wi3DP YouTube Channel.
Editor’s Note: Machine Design's WISE (Workers in Science and Engineering) hub compiles our coverage of workplace issues affecting the engineering field, in addition to contributions from equity seeking groups and subject matter experts within various subdisciplines.