Jul 12 2016

7 Challenges to a Wider Adoption of Additive Manufacturing in the Industry – Part 2

Previously, we discussed three of the biggest challenges manufacturers face in the adoption of Additive Manufacturing for functional parts: getting the right shape, meeting requirements for part qualification and determining the appropriate machine, raw material and process parameters. Let us continue with the remaining four identified challenges.

4.     Is it really worth it?

At some point, the decision to produce additively manufactured parts will likely boil down to return on investment (ROI).  AM can bring significant economic advantages when:

  • The cost of raw materials is high (e.g. titanium). Unused powder can be recycled (up to a point), while classical subtractive manufacturing can machine away up to 90% of the material to produce the final component.
  • Lighter parts bring high value. AM makes it easy to produce light parts whose layout has been optimized using topology optimization. Weight considerations are of course especially important in the Aerospace & Defense industry.
  • Parts require complex assemblies. A single additively manufactured part can sometimes replace complex multi-part assemblies imposed by traditional manufacturing techniques.
  • Custom parts or low volumes are needed. Building custom parts with AM can be done at no extra cost, while traditional manufacturing requires designing molds or numerical control programs.

However, AM is a costly process by itself:

  • Machines are still expensive. According to the Senvol database, prices range from $100,000 to more than $1,000,000 for machines that can print metallic parts.
  • Raw materials are also expensive, from $110 to $200 per kilogram for steel and aluminum powder and around $600 per kilogram for titanium according to this source.
  • Post-processing operations can be expensive and are often time-consuming. The printed part must be separated from the build platform[1] and the support structures must be removed. Extra steps must be taken to meet quality requirements: For example, heat treat to remove internal stress of metallic parts, abrasive finishing (polishing, sandpapering, machining operations) and application of coating.
  • Slow fabrication speed limits the ROI one can expect from the usage of an AM machine in large series. It can take hours or even days to print a large part, so traditional techniques can continue to outperform on speed and efficiency. Nesting parts in the build chamber allows printing of many parts in a single build, thereby reducing overall production times. However, this approach raises concerns about traceability and certification in regulated industries[2].

Cost analysis and modeling of AM processes is a hard subject. A Roland Berger study took up the challenge and estimated the cost of additive manufacturing to €3.14 per cm3, a pretty high value. However, Roland Berger expects a large increase of build rates[3] in the future and a decline in powder prices.

5.     Are operators being put at risk?

The AM process presents health hazards and manufacturers need to make sure operators are safe from these risks.

Powders are the main concern. They can cause irritation to eyes and skin and should not be inhaled. Metal powders are flammable and potentially explosive, especially aluminum powders. Specific procedures should be enforced when retrieving material from stock, loading powder for a build and removing extra powder after a build.

Operators at Risk

Wet separator being used to prevent the formation of a metal powder cloud during
a build cleanup. Note the use of a respirator to avoid inhaling metal powder. Source: NIST.

Other risks are related for example to the high temperature of the build chamber or the important weight of build trays, which must therefore be handled with care.

This article lists 15 Standard Operating Procedures that have been applied at NIST Metal AM Laboratory to prevent these risks. As with any health hazard, manufacturers should make sure that safety procedures are enforced via proper equipment, training, signs on the shop floor and software control.

6.     Tracking Parts to Ensure Regulatory Compliance

Additive Manufacturing presents new opportunities and new challenges in terms of traceability.

On the opportunities side, serial numbers can be directly printed on the part, at no additional cost. This is much simpler, quicker and reliable than for example printing and applying a barcode sticker.

By Bcn0209 at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A miniature 3D printed turbine. Characters (and
therefore serial numbers) can easily be integrated in the part.

On the challenges side, remote fabrication for maintenance becomes an important application of AM. For example, on warships or on offshore platforms, instead of waiting days for spare parts to be shipped, they can be printed on site. More generally, goods can be printed locally via a distributed network of AM printers, thereby reducing lead times and transport costs.

However, all these parts still need to be tracked, linking serial numbers with machines, raw materials used, locations and operators. A global traceability solution, enclosing multiple AM and supply chain locations will be needed more than ever.

7.     Part size and material limitation

The size of the build chamber inevitably limits the size of producible parts. A workaround is to cut the part into smaller blocks so that they fit the build space. Blocks will then have to be assembled by mechanical joining or welding.

US government, academia, and industry have put resources into overcoming this hurdle. The Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine, built by Cincinati Inc. in collaboration with the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Lockheed Martin was demonstrated to print a roadster.

An increasing variety of materials are now available. For metals alone, aluminum, bronze, copper, nickel, iron, steel, titanium or even silver or gold materials can be used.

However, the range of alloys is still too limited to meet all industry needs. Non weldable metals or difficult-to-weld alloys are generally not suited to AM.

Additive Manufacturing has the potential to revolutionize design, manufacturing processes and supply chain. However, its expansion in the industry is currently hindered by a number of challenges. A tight collaboration between academies, manufacturers, machine vendors, material providers and industrial software solution vendors probably represents the best opportunity to meet these challenges.


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[1] For example with a wire-EDM system or a band saw

[2] For example, consider several parts printed with a Selective Laser Sintering machine in a single batch. Because the parts are at different locations of the build tray, the laser will not have exactly the same impact. Parts will not be identical.

[3] HP claims that its future Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer will reduce the build time down to a factor of 10 (comparison made with Selective Laser Sintering and Fused Deposition Modeling printer solutions from $100,000 to $300,000, as of April 2016).

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2016/07/7-challenges-to-a-wider-adoption-of-additive-manufacturing-in-the-industry-part-2/

Jul 07 2016

7 Challenges to a Wider Adoption of Additive Manufacturing in the Industry – Part 1

Additive Manufacturing Usage (2013). Source: Wohlers.

Additive Manufacturing Usage (2013). Source: Wohlers.

After being used to create prototypes, tools or presentation models, Additive Manufacturing (AM) is now more and more being adopted to manufacture functional parts.

And, indeed, AM has a lot of benefits, whether it be to build custom parts, to replace complex assemblies by a single 3D-printed part or to create organic shapes – lighter but still robust parts that would be near-impossible to manufacture with classical means.

It is also now possible to 3D-print a wide variety of metal parts in aluminum, high-grade steel, titanium as well as nickel and cobalt alloys. So why are additively manufactured parts still rare in the industry, in spite of a few spectacular announcements (such as GE Aviation’s 3D-printed fuel nozzles for the LEAP jet engine)?

Well, there is a long way to go from prototypes to mission-critical industrial parts. Get ready to discover the dark side of Additive Manufacturing and learn how the industry could answer its challenges!

1.  Printing a part with the right shape

When printing a metal part using the widespread powder-bed fusion technology, it is necessary to print support structures along with the part itself, otherwise part distortion will occur.

Video showing the printing of a metal part (accelerated). Notice how the part bends at its ends.


Support structures may look like this:

A 3D-printed rocket engine prototype, with part of its lattice support structure still in place.  Source: Lawrence Livermore Laboratory


But where to place these support structures, knowing that they will need to be removed afterwards, which has a cost?

How to ensure that there will be no distortion during the build or once the support structures are removed (springback effect)?

Software solutions can help ensure that the part is manufactured as it was designed. Such a solution should combine:

  • An interactive or automated placement of parts on the build tray
  • An automatic generation of relevant support structures
  • A realistic simulation of residual stress and distortion; this function is essential to decide whether the support structures or the part design should be reconsidered

2.  Ensuring part qualification

In regulated industries such as Aerospace & Defense, one of the most serious hurdles to the expansion of AM for metal parts is the question of part qualification.

Beside distortion and shrinkage (see above), many other quality issues can occur, such as porosity (some applications require parts with a density greater than 99%), delamination of layers, poor surface finish and thermal stresses.  X-ray Computed Tomography can be used to check the internal structure of the parts.


Hydrogen pores

Hydrogen pores in a 3D-printed aluminum alloy (source: Inside Metal Additive Manufacturing)


Physics-based models and realistic simulations once again can help avoid some of these issues, such as thermal stress.

Predictive analytics offer a complementary approach to hard science and simulations. By applying machine learning algorithms to simulation results or actual build data, patterns for good and failed parts are discovered. This in turn allows finding appropriate machine settings, which today are typically found using a trial-and-error method. The Lawrence Livermore Research Laboratory has tested this approach for metal parts printed with a Selective Laser-Melting[1] process. They found out that the laser power and scanning speed were the most crucial parameters.

It is also critical for the industry to agree on standard methods and test data for the qualification of materials and processes, which will in turn lead to the certification of the final products.

3.  Which raw materials and machines for which results?

Manufacturers have precise objectives in terms of part characteristics, such as hardness, density, and rigidity—which machine, raw material and AM process parameters could be used to meet these objectives? There is a lack of information related to material properties, and we have much less experience and scientific knowledge of AM processes than, say, molding or casting.

A company called Senvol has decided to address this challenge. They allow querying a database of AM machines and raw materials using criteria such as the required size of the build envelope or the material type.

Most importantly, they have built an empirical database of test results on AM parts built in certified facilities. Tested material properties include such attributes as tensile strength, hardness, compression, coefficient of thermal expansion, etc.  In addition, the AM machine used, the raw materials and the set of process parameters are fully documented for each test. Customers can then purchase test results.

Senvol Test

Example of material characteristics obtained from a Senvol test (see full example)


Another initiative came from the National Institute of Standard Technologies (NIST), an agency of the US department of commerce. Considering the difficulty for the private industry to develop a consensus on material property data for AM, NIST has the goal of developing new standard material characterization methods, especially for metal parts and the A&D industry (see the project statement).


During this article we’ve focused primarily on metal part fabrication and covered three aspects of Additive Manufacturing: Printing parts with the correct shape, ensuring part qualification and tying in raw materials with the correct machines to meet the desired results. As we see an increase in manufacturers adopting Additive Manufacturing methods, we expect this growth to continue yet at a conservative rate.

Part 2 of this article will continue with four additional challenges associated with adopting additive manufacturing. Learn more about the economic advantages, risks to operators, challenges and opportunities for traceability, as well as size and material limitations associated with additive manufacturing.


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[1] A technique of the family of powder-bed fusion processes that creates metal parts by fusing metal powder layers using high-power laser beams.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2016/07/7-challenges-to-a-wider-adoption-of-additive-manufacturing-in-the-industry-part-1/

Jun 30 2016

Systems Engineering Critical to Tackling IoT’s Challenges

MIND-BOGGLING-COMPLEXITYMillions of devices and users. Trillions of lines of computer code. Thousands of manufacturers with different goals and priorities, acting independently, to create a system whose “scale, rate of evolution, and diversity of stakeholders makes it impossible to do any sort of conventional top-down direction or management, yet whose intended use requires high levels of trust, safety, security and quality of service.”

That’s how Hillary Sillitto, an expert on ultra-large-scale systems (ULSS) and a fellow of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE), describes the largest system ever conceived: the Internet of Things (IoT).

“Current engineering practice is ahead of the science,” Sillitto said. “We are building systems we do not know how to characterize or analyze, and whose behavior we cannot fully predict.”

That reality has the global community of systems engineers – the people whose specialty was designed to identify and manage the trade-offs inherent in building large-scale systems comprising hundreds, even thousands of subsystems – actively searching for answers. Focus areas range from urging organizations to dramatically change the way they design complex systems to overhauling computer-aided design and engineering tools for the special challenges of systems engineering (SE).

 Managing Subsystem Conflicts

“Systems engineering is as much art as it is science,” said Norman R. Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of US-based global security and aerospace corporation Lockheed Martin and a former member of the US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. “The essence of systems engineering comes down to the fact that most individuals on a complex project know how to make a brick, but for such projects to be successful you need someone who knows how to build a cathedral.”

In Augustine’s analogy, systems engineers are the master architects who ensure that every subsystem in a project supports and enhances every other subsystem to create an optimized whole. In designing an automobile, for example, systems engineers are responsible for identifying the trade-offs between, for example, fast acceleration and fuel efficiency or weight versus safety. Ideally, experts in each engineering discipline then work together to manage the trade-offs, sub-optimizing some systems to ensure the best possible overall performance. But the ideal is far from the reality.

“The world is just not very good at systems engineering,” laments Augustine, who is helping to apply SE to a light-rail project in the suburbs of a major metropolitan region.

Experts like Augustine give the world a failing grade in SE, in part, due to the chasm between what a strong SE orientation can contribute to organizational success and the lack of commitment to SE among corporate and government leaders.

“The gap is huge, and it is very costly,” said Daniel Krob, president of the Center of Excellence on Systems Architecture, Management, Economy and Strategy (CESAMES) in Paris and professor of computer science at the École Polytechnique.

Charles F. Bolden Jr., administrator of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and a former astronaut, agrees: “Large companies whom we thought had a strong systems engineering approach don’t, or have let it falter, resulting in lost [business] opportunities, lost time and cost and schedule overruns.”

A large part of the problem, these experts agree, is that engineers in different disciplines don’t collaborate – or even communicate – as much as they should, and that corporate leaders don’t force the point or provide the tools to make collaboration easier. “Without systems engineering, the most likely outcome is a number of separately optimized parts that inefficiently perform the task of the whole, or perform it not all,” Augustine said.

The optimal system of systems rarely arises by optimizing each subsystem, NASA Chief Technologist David Miller explained. The interfaces between subsystems, and between systems and the external environment, are where a system of many systems succeeds or fails, he said.

“In our business, when we think about systems of systems,” Miller said, “we need to take into account not just the performance of the space vehicle, but adaptability to a changing environment and the like — something that I like to call architectural resilience, meaning the ability to be insensitive to change.” That ability will also be central to the success of a constantly evolving system such as the IoT.


Continue reading the rest of this story here, on COMPASS, the 3DEXPERIENCE Magazine.


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Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2016/06/systems-engineering-critical-to-tackling-iots-challenges/

Jun 16 2016

Megan Nichols

The Industrial Internet of Things Promises Safety Wins but Security Risks

You know those signs you always see on construction sites, the ones that say “this workplace has gone 100 days without injury?” Those signs are about to get a major overhaul.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is coming, hot on the heels of its domestic cousin, and it’s bringing major changes to the workplace. The fourth industrial revolution will forever change the way we work. Not only will network-aware devices allow us to be more productive, they will also usher in a new era of safety and security practices made possible by interconnected devices.

The Rewards

If you’re familiar with wearable technologies like Google Glass, you might have already guessed that IIoT will use similar gadgetry to help supervisors better understand the condition of their workforce. The technology to measure vital signs, like heart rate and skin temperature, already exists. In a network-aware workplace, these data points will be monitored in real time. It’s been speculated that we will even be able to measure human fatigue as soon as 2016.

It won’t just be humans evaluating this data, either. If you’re a field worker performing a survey in scorching heat, for example, your network-aware orange safety vest might be programmed to alert the home office if your temperature exceeds a set threshold. Similarly, equipment on manufacturing lines will be just as informed of safety standards and practices as you are, and might automatically shut off in the event that you fail to follow procedure.

The Risks

Technology is a double-edged sword, though, and each wearable device and network-aware machine that’s added to the workplace represents a possible point of entry for cyber-attacks.

You might think it’s science fiction, but anonymous U.S. government officials have already shared information about weaponized malware called Stuxnet. The computer worm was allegedly used to invoke a series of incidents that destroyed multiple Iranian centrifuges, dealing a crippling blow to the nation’s nuclear program. Such a weapon could wreak havoc if let loose on IIoT devices, and it’s entirely possible the casualties could be human this time.

In 2015, half of all small businesses were the target of a cyberattack, and it seems that a different major corporation – Target, LinkedIn, Sony etc. – announces a data breach nearly every day now. Personal data is highly valuable on the dark web, which means IIoT devices will almost certainly be the target of cyberattacks. A robust network security solution will be critical for businesses that rely on large numbers of IIoT devices.

The Reality

Although the situation seems dire, there is hope that the war on cybercrime is reaching a turning point. In the past, victims were relegated to playing a defensive role, the best outcome you could hope for was to escape an attack unscathed. Now, however, the FBI and other international agencies are honing their skills and holding attackers accountable more frequently.

Much like the first three industrial revolutions, we won’t fully comprehend what the fourth means until it’s already upon us. You can bet that once new technologies arrive and are exploited, the pace of development will only increase. In the same way that conventional wars have inspired some of the world’s most profound advances in medicine, the war for the web is sure to deliver advances we can’t yet comprehend.

So remember, before you lace up your network-aware steel toes and head to work, make sure you’ve updated them to the latest firmware version. You don’t want to be responsible for setting the sign back to “0 days.”

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2016/06/the-industrial-internet-of-things-promises-safety-wins-but-security-risks/

Jun 07 2016

From Atoms to Airplanes

From Atoms to AirplanesImagine the year is 2045 and you are about to board an airliner for a scheduled nonstop flight from New York City to Paris. The aircraft looks the same as commercial airplanes did in 2015, but advanced technology – from the airplane’s systems to the materials from which it is made – will make this flight different from any that humans experience today.

For starters, the airplane is powered by electricity instead of jet fuel, and its structure doubles as a giant battery that collects and stores solar energy. As a result, the aircraft emits no greenhouse gases. En route to their destination, window-seat passengers may notice that the wings – made from lightweight composite materials – will automatically change shape according to flight conditions. Meanwhile, on the ground, a digital “twin” of the aircraft is helping to predict how it will age throughout its 15- to 20-year service life, enabling technicians to identify and fix emerging maintenance issues as they develop and reduce and eliminate delayed or canceled flights due to mechanical problems.

Futuristic? Absolutely. Fantasy? Think again.

These and other advanced concepts are being explored at the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Convergent Aeronautics Solutions program to help make possible new capabilities in commercial aviation. Like the NASA program, aerospace companies around the world are working in collaboration with their governments to develop and perfect advanced technologies, tools and processes to meet aviation’s most pressing challenges: faster new aircraft that can be developed more quickly and that are environmentally sustainable, more affordable, and more efficient to operate and maintain.

Civil Aviation Booming

Aviation accounts for only 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents 83% of total airline traffic. As automobiles, trucks and trains reduce their greenhouse gas footprints, however, aviation’s footprint is increasing due to a global increase in air travel. The IATA projects that air travel will grow at a rate of 3.9% annually for the next 20 years. To meet this demand, Europe’s Airbus, as well as Boeing in the US, will produce nearly 1,900 airliners in 2018, up from about 1,400 in 2015 and more than double the number of aircraft the “Big Two” delivered in 2008. Add Canada’s Bombardier and Brazil’s Embraer into the mix, and more than 2,100 commercial aircraft could be delivered in 2018 – a historically high production rate.

In the case of business aviation, engineers are developing technology in anticipation of at least one globe-shrinking jet airplane capable of flying between continents at significantly more than Mach 1 before 2025; the actual speed will depend on the final design, but could be as much as 1,800 kilometers (1,118 miles) per hour at the high altitudes anticipated for the airplane.

Revolutionary Technology

But innovations won’t be limited to airframes, engines and subsystems. The high-performance composites and ultra-high-temperature materials used to build future generations of aircraft and engines also will take dramatic leaps, starting at the molecular level. Boeing and Airbus already have achieved major weight reductions and associated fuel savings by making greater use of composite materials in their 787 and A350 models, respectively, than any of the companies’ previous commercial airplanes. Meanwhile, private and government research facilities all over the world are modeling new types of alloys and various fibers with enhanced structural properties that will make them stronger and lighter, cheaper to produce and able to perform better under extreme operating conditions.

No less effort is being put into advanced production processes. One such process is additive manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing, the process of producing complex parts by melting and building up layer upon layer of material; it’s the reverse of conventional machining, which carves parts from solid blocks of material. GE Aviation in Evendale, Ohio, for example, is using AM to make fuel nozzles of certain jet engines, and Pratt & Whitney (P&W) of East Hartford, Connecticut, is using AM to make advanced turbine components for some jet engines.

Still, the technology is in a very early stage of development, according to materials and manufacturing engineers. “This is a revolutionary technology,” said Lynn Gambill, chief engineer, Manufacturing and Global Services for Pratt & Whitney. “AM lends itself to rapid, energy-efficient manufacturing of products that can be produced no other way and with greatly reduced waste of material.”

While there’s no question aviation will evolve dramatically in coming decades, the speed at which this evolution will occur is less predictable. Bringing new technology to market will require substantial investment and a willingness to accept some level of business risk, two variables that rarely move in lock step in the aerospace industry, said Aaron Hollander, president, chairman and CEO of First Aviation Services in Westport, Connecticut, an engineering-focused, component-maintenance and repair company. “At the same time,” he said, “the aerospace industry has a proud heritage of pushing boundaries and advancing the state of the art, and I’m confident this tradition will continue.”

Continue reading the rest of this story here, on COMPASS, the 3DEXPERIENCE Magazine.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2016/06/from-atoms-to-airplanes/

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