Is the Automotive Industry the Fulcrum for Additive Manufacturing?
Ian Wright posted on September 29, 2016 |
3D printing helps automotive manufacturer cut time and costs for tooling and shaping dies.
An example of a forming die that can be created with Sciaky's EBAM technology. (Image courtesy of Sciaky.)
An example of a forming die that can be created with Sciaky's EBAM technology. (Image courtesy of Sciaky.)
3D printing technology is seeing significant growth in manufacturing—and even though demand for machining centers remains high despite this growth, it’s a safe bet that we’ll be seeing more and more 3D printers on factory floors as time goes on.

What started as a rapid prototyping technology is trending toward true additive manufacturing. However, the majority of manufacturers using 3D printing for actual production are in the aerospace and medical industries, neither are known for being high-volume.

If 3D printing is going to pivot and become as much of a staple on factory floors and in job shops as subtractive machining, a high-volume industry like automotive is an ideal fulcrum. Although some automotive manufacturers are already using 3D printing for prototyping, we’ve only recently begun to see the industry explore other uses for the technology.

Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing in the Automotive Industry

Sciaky, Inc., a subsidiary of Philips Service Industries, Inc. and provider of metal 3D printing solutions, recently announced that its Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) technology has helped an unnamed major automotive manufacturer to cut significant time and costs in the creation and repair of tooling and stamping dies.

The manufacturer utilized Sciaky's EBAM to deposit complicated tooling features, as well as perform customized repairs and cladding operations for several high-volume parts. After a successful proof of concept (POC) engagement, the 3D-printed tool was put into production.

EBAM systems can produce parts ranging from 8 in (203 mm) to 19 ft (5.79 m) in length, but can also manufacture smaller and larger parts depending on the application. According to Sciaky, EBAM is also the fastest deposition process in the metal additive manufacturing market, with gross deposition rates ranging from 7 to 20 lbs. (3.18 to 9.07 kg) of metal per hour.

EBAM systems also have a dual wirefeed option, which enables two different metal alloys to be combined into a single melt pool to create "custom alloy" parts or ingots. In addition, the mixture ratio of the two materials can be changed to create "graded" parts or structures. 

“Sciaky's EBAM technology is not limited to titanium parts and aerospace applications,” said Bob Phillips, vice president of Phillips Service Industries, Inc. “We have provided 3D-printed solutions to customers in a variety of industries like automotive, agricultural, defense, nuclear, oil & gas and sea exploration using a wide variety of metals like stainless steel, tantalum, tungsten, Inconel and niobium.”

Will the automotive industry be the next major adopter of additive manufacturing? Comment below.

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