Aerospace has become one of the leading industries when it comes to the application of Additive Manufacturing in serial production for safety critical parts. Reasons for this can be found in the unique design possibilities as well as the functional integration which can be realized by AM. Therefore AM offers not only clear advantages regarding production costs but also enables OEMs to slim down and optimize their supply chain and production processes.
A challenge which many OEMs are facing today is the qualification of the AM production process. In the previous sections, we examined how to the set-up an AM production and how to qualify the production process and the necessary risk management.
This section shall focus on the implementation of process optimizations into an already qualified AM process.
Support during re-qualification
Changes and improvements within AM can arise from various fields, i.e. changes in software (extending from data and print process preparation to machine internal software updates), design of the produced part, the AM build process and the production process chain.
In any case it is important to evaluate and examine these changes prior to implementation. As a first step the business case has to be assessed. Only if a positive return on re-qualification efforts can be demonstrated the project team can proceed to the second step, i.e. the assessment of potential risks aligned to the process change.
Hereby previous risk management tools such as the process failure mode and effects analysis (pFMEA) can be applied. In case of process changes, the pFMEA can be used the evaluate severity of a change, e.g. whether a change should be regarded as a major or minor change. The determination of the type of change will directly affect the necessary re-qualification effort and therefore necessary time for its implementation.
A recent example for applying this approach is the introduction of the new 40µm process for Titanium. It offers better build performance, not only using new process parameters, but also a different and cheaper powder. For each of the parameter changes which might affect overall process performance – and therefore the properties of the final part – the described re-qualification approach needs to be completed. In this case additional testing with specimen had to be executed to validate performance of the optimized process.
Extensive and comprehensible experience allows not only a fast assessment and implementation of changes, but also ensures that all fields of potential optimization sources can be considered at the same time.
The Additive Minds Approach
Additive Minds, the AM consulting unit of EOS GmbH, has developed an AM implementation road-map which is structured in 5 interconnected phases and designed to keep the AM learning curve both short and cost-efficient.
Phase 1 – “Find your application“ focuses on finding suitable applications for the additive manufacturing process and evaluate their technical and economic suitability.
Phase 2 – “Develop your application“ embraces the development of the selected applications, mainly regarding redesign or creating a new AM design implementing topology optimization software, optimizing process and material and/or fine-tuning part characteristics for competitive advantages.
Phase 3 – “Ramp up your production” covers the ramp-up of the AM production, beginning with a production planning and calculation of all efforts needed for the implementation of the specific applications. There is also the need for integration AM in the conventional production processes.
Phase 4 – “Certify & Scale your production” is transformation: Getting organizations AM-ready. Unlike the first three phases, Phase 4 (AM Transformation) is not linear and elapses in parallel to the other phases, since required a holistic approach /view of enabling processes, organization, and the most valuable resource a company has – the people that make it happen. Inherent part of this phase is, depending on the specific industry, the certification process and also the scaling up of the productions capacities.
Phase 5 – “Establish Digital Manufacturing Facilities” focuses on entering fully digitizing AM production with highly automated processes and an integration into existing manufacturing systems as well as industrial IOT solutions.
Rapid 3D is an Additive Minds Partner in South Africa.
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Article by Ferdinand Endraß Additive Manufacturing Consultant @ EOS GmbH