Metal Powder for Additive Manufacturing -Sweden

This article is about Sweden and its current situation in the industrial 3D Printing field.

ADDITIVE Manufacturing or 3D Printing is growing. A well-known Swedish manufacturer of machines for additive manufacturing for steel is Arcam that is selling very well right now. In 2008 the company had 33 employees in Sweden, today there are more than 75 people only in Sweden. The number of employees worldwide is 250. The main market for Arcam is the United States with Asia clearly growing. But to use a 3D Printer is not as easy as a paper printer. According to Evald Ottosson it requires more different kinds of knowledge when producing with an additive manufacturing machine: – We must be absolutely sure that the end product must function and be fully production ready. It's a big mental step to dare to take.

At many industries in Sweden many companies think like this: "we know what we have but not what we will get", it is traditionally tied in many places out there in the industry. Therefore, many new product is still using traditional development tools such as manufacturing with toolmaking and injection. To develop a completely finished product with mold production is usually a long process.

As for additive manufacturing, it is still almost only used for low production volume, because of the slow manufacturing time but also because of the deviations from the CAD model that arises, especially if the metal is used, according to Johanna Stiernstedt, researcher at Swerea IVF: – You can get entirely different results from different powder batches, therefore it achieves no repeatability and tolerance requirements of the details cannot be kept. In the case where metal is used after treatment is needed to complete the product.

Some machine manufacturers claim that their machines achieves a density of 100 %.- However, it has been difficult to obtain independent research reports on metal data, but it starts to come, says Johanna Stiernstedt. For example from universities and institutes in Germany and the UK, but more research is needed on how to optimize the metal powder for additive manufacturing. Furthermore, she says that the metal will more and more be used: – primarily for the manufacture of components for the aerospace and the medical-technical-industry .

Metal powder can be used for the manufacture of such as: tools, prototypes, spare parts, and also for series production. Sintered metal components can be made of titanium, steel, aluminum and even high-alloyed materials as nickel-based super-alloys.

When it comes to Sweden, the terms of metal powder for additive manufacturing have been a hot topic for some companies. With several manufacturers ahead of time, including a company named Höganäs. Normally the company's focus is to sell 3D printed components but they also have a division that has developed its own technology and builds machines known as Digital Metal.

Additiv manufacturing has come to stay and is a complement to conventional production. But still, the market for 3D printers is small. In 2012 only 8000 industrial 3d printers was sold worldwide. (Source: Sven Karlsson, Swerea IVF). However, interest in the technology is steadily growing and more and more players are entering the scene, including Hewlett Packard (TBR 2016). They use their own technology called Multi Jet Fusion and have developed a machine which, according to Terry Wohlers, is so fast that it can compete with injection molding.

Additiv production is not a new technology, the first machines were introduced in the United States at the end of the 1980s. Ten years later, the technology makes its breakthrough in Europe and is now established in several places in the industry. Sweden is an early adopter of the new technology. During the first few years of the 2000s the Swedish company Arcam were far ahead in terms of additive manufacturing, but over the last few years the country have lost to the world,
according to Swedish Evald Ottosson: -“The train have rolled long without Sweden being in it and we let others do the work. We can still get on the train and take the opportunity to further develop the technology. Vinnova, a Swedish investing institute has put lots of money into research and around the country, people have waked up.”

Evald Ottosson is CEO for Protech and also chairman of the industry association Sveat (Swedish additive manufacturing), whose purpose is to disseminate information and knowledge about additive technology and 3D Manufacturing. “- Sveat had made so the snowball has started rolling”, he says.


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