Written by Adam Trumpour, Concept Designer at Pratt & Whitney Canada, Owner and Rocket Propulsion Researcher at AT Aerospace, and founder and president of Launch Canada (www.launchcanada.org).
“Rocket Science”. 50 years after those first footsteps on the Moon, this phrase is still immediately evocative of something almost unimaginably challenging: something demanding of the most uncompromising skill and excellence. Here in Canada, we have had our space technology niches that we excel in, but true “rocket science”, that is to say the engineering of the vehicles that enable access to space and the propulsion systems that power them, has not been among them.
Yet over the last several years, a remarkable thing has been happening. Internationally, entrepreneurial companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin and Rocket Lab have been rising to prominence and disrupting the space launch industry, leveraging new ideas about how to build an aerospace company, new manufacturing technologies, small, nimble teams and a mindset more traditionally associated with Silicon Valley than aerospace. They’re building and launching rockets for lower cost than ever before and disrupting an industry that was once the domain of global superpowers and massive prime contractors. One such company, Rocket Lab, is even doing this in New Zealand, a nation with a population less than the Greater Toronto Area and almost no established aerospace industry. Clearly the landscape has shifted.
Unfortunately, Canada has been slow to catch on. For far too long, we’ve been held back by a very self-limiting mindset that says “we’re too small; we need to stick to what we’ve always done”. This is the very sort of attitude that causes us to fail to recognize new opportunities, fail to perceive that the world is changing around us, and fail to respond to that change.
Yet under the radar to most Canadians, a rapidly growing movement has sprung up right across the country. It’s being driven by students and grassroots innovators (and a smattering of professionals as well) who are inspired by what they see happening elsewhere at innovative companies like SpaceX and the vast potential and opportunity it represents, and are no longer satisfied with being told that they can’t do that here.
Where just a few years ago there was almost nothing, today there are around 20 university rocket teams right across the country, representing nearly 1000 active students. All are building sophisticated vehicles and pushing the technological envelope in everything from advanced composite structures and supersonic aerodynamics to liquid rocket propulsion and additively manufactured high performance rocket engines. And they are dominating at major international competitions. At the world’s largest student rocket competition, the Spaceport America Cup in New Mexico, Canadian teams regularly take home the top awards in spite of making up less than 15% of the entrants in the competition. What’s more, this level of excellence has been consistent. Talk about punching above our weight – all this in an area of space technology and cutting-edge manufacturing that, supposedly, “we don’t do here”!
Building on this demonstrated passion and exceptional talent, four Canadian teams are even participating in the Base 11 Space Challenge, a $1 million US competition to become the first university team to successfully design, build and launch a liquid-propellant rocket all the way to space: 100 km altitude. This is by far the most advanced, most challenging student design competition ever undertaken, and this past June, two of those Canadian teams placed in the top 5 in North America in the design phase of the competition, as voted by judges from industry leaders like SpaceX and Blue Origin.
Yet there remains a serious disconnect. In spite of all this raw passion and demonstrated world-class talent, there have been few avenues of support for them in their home country. Canada has not yet caught on to the incredible potential they represent, and they frequently don’t even have the opportunity to launch their more advanced rockets here. Far too often, they are forced to either abandon their passion, or leave the country to pursue opportunities abroad. We are losing some of our brightest, most talented and motivated individuals due to a lack of support and opportunity.
When there is this much raw passion and demonstrated talent, yet virtually no support to help it thrive, it points to a serious disconnect. We want to consider ourselves a nation of innovators, but innovation does not happen in a vacuum. It emerges most reliably when you have an ecosystem that is conducive to it, that cultivates opportunities to develop practical skills and supports those with the passion and talent to do great things.
As I write this, work is underway to create the inaugural Launch Canada rocket innovation challenge (www.launchcanada.org) , the first-ever major Canadian rocket competition that aims to finally give Canada’s student rocketeers an outlet to pursue their activities here in Canada, take them to the next level, learn, collaborate and compete. At the same time it will provide a highly visible showcase of the kind of Canadian engineering excellence that they’ve been repeatedly demonstrating internationally but until now has been largely unseen at home. Major emphases of this competition will be design, development and testing of novel rocket-related technologies and components, and entrepreneurial thinking about the potential applications and business cases.
Collaboration and partnership are key pillars of this initiative: bringing together these students with professionals from industry, government and the investment community who can give them guidance and support; and creating win-win situations for everyone involved. And central to this is advanced manufacturing.
Rocketry, whether amateur or professional, is at its core an exercise in high-skill advanced manufacturing optimized for weight and cost. Additive manufacturing, advanced composites, exotic materials and joining processes combine with conventional machining and fabricating to enable the amazing feats of cutting-edge rocket companies like SpaceX. Metal additive manufacturing processes, for example, have become key enablers for complex liquid rocket engine designs that operate at extremes of temperature and pressure, and lightweight fluid controls for these systems. Helping Canada’s students and rocket innovators to access and leverage these processes will enable them to turn their passion and ingenuity into real hardware, build the skills that will help them become tomorrow’s leaders in Canadian industry, and even lay the groundwork for new aerospace technologies and companies.
At the same time, students and amateurs fueled by passion for the technology have the freedom to pursue genuinely novel designs and concepts with higher technical risk than traditional aerospace companies would be willing to assume, and at far lower cost than a company could achieve. While this risk has been a major roadblock to the adoption of novel manufacturing techniques like additive in cutting-edge aerospace applications, student rocketeers are able to fully embrace it and provide the kind of real-world testing, hardware demonstration and manufacturing process qualification in the most demanding of applications that can help refine manufacturing processes and accelerate their adoption in industry. After all, 3D printing a complex part is one thing, but proving that part in the extreme environment of a rocket engine is a vastly more effective demonstration of the process.
We’re creating Launch Canada because we’ve seen the talent and the potential of these grassroots rocketeers, but to truly unleash it, we need your help. We have skilled, driven young “rocket scientists” across this country who believe in what they’re doing and where they can take it. It’s high time we as a nation started supporting them and showing them that we truly believe in their potential to achieve amazing things, right here in Canada.
If supporting and tapping into this extraordinary and rapidly growing rocket science talent and helping to grow this nascent new high-tech industrial segment sounds intriguing; if you share in our belief in the limitless potential of Canadian talent and our excitement in helping it to thrive, I invite you to get in touch and help us #LaunchTheNorth!
Canada Makes is a division of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), currently delivering a federal program that supports manufacturing advancement initiatives. Burloak Technologies Inc. of Oakville Ontario is the Additive Manufacturing (AM) division of SAMUEL. MDA, a Maxar company, has operations across Canada, including in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, which develops and manufactures satellite antennas and communications subsystems. These three organizations recently partnered to produce 3D-printed titanium and aluminum parts for satellite antenna applications. The projects they undertook validate that AM technology provides accelerated and cost-effective solutions for making space parts. One advantage is that AM allows designers to consolidate into “one item” a sub-assembly that would traditionally be comprised of multiple parts (including part flanges, fasteners and assembly effort for putting them together). Consequently, the single piece allows for smaller packages, mass savings and designs that could not otherwise be conceptualized with the limitations of conventional/computer numerical control (CNC) manufacturing technologies.
Canada Makes enabled, with funding from the National Research Council (NRC) through its Metal Additive Demonstration program, the manufacturing development and build of the following two parts at Burloak Technologies:
For the Titanium Antenna Hold Down and Release Mechanism (HRM) bracket, the approach was to take a conventionally/CNC-machined part and build it using AM techniques without making any changes to the design. The goal was first to ascertain if it was indeed printable, and to also measure the time and cost savings of AM compared to conventional/CNC machining approach.
For the Aluminum Quad-Antenna, the objectives were to minimize wall thickness to make the part as compact and as light as possible, to obtain as-printed smooth walls to minimize RF losses, and to establish compensation techniques to cancel-out the 1G sagging effect of unsupported 45° ceilings during printing.
Through this Canada Makes initiative, MDA and Burloak were able to successfully prove that AM of the titanium HRM bracket resulted in cost and schedule savings in the order of 40%. Similarly, MDA and Burloak successfully proved that the aluminum Quad-Antenna was printable with smooth surfaces (64 micro-inch), thin walls (as low as 0.012”) and with the ability to compensate for the 1G effect on 45° unsupported ceilings.
“This is yet another example of how additive manufacturing is transforming how satellite parts are being manufactured,” said Eric Amyotte, MDA Vice President, Antennas and Electronic Products. “These parts were 3D printed by Burloak and then tested by MDA. Canada Makes is definitely helping to fast-track the acceptance of AM for space application.”
“One of the objectives of the Canada Makes program is to stimulate the Canadian additive manufacturing industry, and the two highlighted successful projects definitely promote the use of AM,” said John Rodic, Program Manager at Canada Makes.
The Metal Additive Manufacturing Demonstration Program is delivered by Canada Makes through funding by the NRC’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP). The program is designed to increase Canadian industry’s awareness and assist in their understanding of the advantages of metal additive manufacturing (AM) technology. Canada Makes works with a group of AM experts who provide guidance to participating companies with respect to the advantages, business opportunities, cost savings and efficiencies of AM.
MDA is an internationally-recognized leader in space robotics, space sensors, satellite payloads, antennas and subsystems, surveillance and intelligence systems, defence and maritime systems, and geospatial radar imagery. MDA’s extensive space expertise and heritage translates into mission-critical defence and commercial applications that include multi-platform command, control and surveillance systems, aeronautical information systems, land administration systems and terrestrial robotics. MDA is also a leading supplier of actionable mission-critical information and insights derived from multiple data sources. Founded in 1969, MDA is recognized as one of Canada’s most successful technology ventures with locations in Richmond, Ottawa, Brampton, Montreal, Halifax and the United Kingdom. MDA is a Maxar company (TSX: MAXR) (NYSE: MAXR). For more information visit www.mdacorporation.com and www.maxar.com.
A leader in the additive manufacturing industry, Burloak Technologies provides engineering and designs for additive manufacturing, materials development, high precision CNC machining, post-processing and metrology. Burloak is a supplier to leading aerospace, space and energy companies and is registered to AS9100D, ISO9001 and is Canada Controlled Goods Approved. Burloak Technologies is a division of Samuel. For more information, visit www.burloaktech.com.
Founded in 1855, Samuel, Son & Co. is a family-owned and operated integrated network of metal manufacturing, processing and distribution divisions. With over 5,000 employees and 100+ facilities, Samuel provides seamless access to metals, industrial products and related value-added services. Supporting over 40,000 customers, we leverage our industry expertise, breadth of experience and the passion of our people to help drive success for North American business – one customer at a time. For more information, visit www.samuel.com.
SUBMISSION DEADLINE: FEBRUARY 22, 2019 – CLOSED
Canada Makes is again offering its Pan-Canadian 3D Printing Design Challenge for postsecondary students enrolled in a Canadian college or university. Winners to be announced in the Spring of 2019.
Last year’s challenge was “Design solutions for a sustainable future” and is again this year. Five finalist from last year’s challenge each received $1,000 for their design. Learn more about the designs at Canada Makes announces finalists for its 3D Challenge.
The adoption of digital manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing requires new approaches to skills and training focused on building experiential and collaborative learning. To foster this objective, the Canada Makes 3D Challenge will challenge university/college teams to design a part and compete for a full one-year paid internship from a Burloak Technologies and cash prizes.
Theme: Design solutions for a sustainable future
Description: Additive manufacturing is empowering new ways to re-think design and fabrication through innovative materials, optimized structures and enhanced functionality. There is currently a drive to think about how our society is changing in the wake of population growth and sustainability concerns. Canada Makes invites student designers to participate in the 3D Design Competition with a focus on creating innovative tools or products that reduce our environmental footprint using additive manufacturing in tandem with conventional manufacturing approaches.
Such examples include (and are not limited to):
- lightweight structures or new designs of automotive or aerospace components that reduce overall weight and fuel consumption
- innovative components that optimize fuel or energy consumption
- energy harvesting devices with innovative features
- multi-purpose objects that simplify everyday life and reduce waste
- wearable tools or objects that enhance mobility efficiency and reduce waste
Phase I – Students who wish to participate must pre-register by November 30, 2018 indicating their intent to submit a final design.
Phase II – Participants will submit a design based on the provided criteria. These designs will be analyzed and evaluated via simulation with the top finalists announced, recognized and awarded their cash prize. Deadline for submissions is February 22, 2019.
Phase III – The top five finalists will have their design fabricated and tested, and will be invited to either make a live or video presentation and have a chance at more prizes including a chance at a one-year paid internship at Burloak Technologies.
The Student/Team (no more than 3 students per team) will submit the following by February 22, 2019:
- Cover sheet
- 150 word description/summary
- STL files and source files from any CAD program
- An image of the current product design (if applicable) and a detailed description of the changes
- Business case (800 word):
- Justification of the product redesign, value added as measured by reduced
- Time to produce
- Cost impact
- Energy consumption or renewable energy generation
- Reduced materials
- Promoting green design
- Participants should define the unmet need in society or explain the waste in current solutions
- Precisely what is being proposed
- Why it is am improvement over existing products
Judges will choose the top 5 finalists and Canada Makes will arrange to fabricate their designs to be showcased at a final event in the spring of 2019. The finalist/teams will receive a cash prize and a chance at a one-year paid internships at Burloak Technologies.
Submitted designs will be evaluated via simulation, and the top five designs will be selected for fabrication and testing based on the required criteria. The winning entries will best satisfy all of the performance criteria.
The Panel will be part of the McGill AM event “Top Business Applications for Additive Manufacturing” February 27, 2019
This coming February 27 is the additive manufacturing event “Top Business Applications of Additive Manufacturing” at McGill in Montreal. Réseau Québec-3D (RQ3D), Canada Makes and McGill University partner for this industry focused event designed to help companies adopt one of the main pillars of Industry 4.0: 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing.
Last week we discussed one of the featured panels “3D Printing and Lightweight Robotic End Of Arm Tooling (EOAT),” and how it is now being used in a number of fields for manufacturing of end devices. This week we’ll have a look at the other featured panel for the day “Machining Challenges in an Additive World.”
Once again we bring in some of Canada’s leading experts on the topic metal additive and machining, the panel will be moderated by Moderator Fabian Sanchez of Siemens and includes panelists; Christian Desravines, Usinage Multiconcept, Éric Thibault, Bell Helicopter and Jared Kozub of Precision ADM.
This panel will be a good opportunity learn about best practices, the advantages and challenges companies are facing in adopting AM.
Discussion will focus on what impacts is AM having on machining and how do the technologies complement each other.
Panelist intend to talk about the importance of the design in the integration of AM through machining and offer a better knowledge of the technology and understand how we can design for AM.
Design for AM is an item that companies are struggling with (Topology optimization, part growth vs shape and loads, distortion due to metal shrinkage, surface finish, etc). Be ready to hear questions about what help AM companies can provide to end-users and the challenges to certify an aircraft part and more.
Join us on February 27 at McGill for this great opportunity to meet and learn from leading practitioners of 3D Printing and join the 4th Industrial revolution. View the agenda
*REGISTRATION FOR THIS EVENT IS NOW CLOSED
The Panel will be part of the McGill AM event “Top Business Applications for Additive Manufacturing” February 27, 2019
The Réseau Québec-3D (RQ3D), Canada Makes and McGill University additive manufacturing (AM) event will feature the panel “3D Printing and Lightweight Robotic End Of Arm Tooling (EOAT).” Gilles Desharnais of Axis Prototypes, Tharwat Fouad of Anubis3D and Nicolas Lacoursiere from Proto3000 will share their expertise and talk about some of the top 3D Printing manufacturing applications.
What to expect!
Additive manufacturing AKA 3D Printing has been around in multiple forms since about 35 years ago. It has been known only to few people in product development and research and was mainly used for prototyping. It is now being used in a number of fields for manufacturing of end devices or intermediate tooling used to fabricate end user devices.
Cases of manufacturing in the medical field will be covered by this panel as well as custom manufacturing of patient specific Orthopedic devices, interim tooling for Dental applications and more.
In the industrial space, 3D Printing is being used in support of manufacturing to produce various components such as tooling for molding or jigs and fixtures to support assembly or other steps in the manufacturing process.
A more specialized space of tooling produced with 3D Printing is End-of-Arm-Tooling for robotics, where 3D Printing provides design freedom to provide value-add solution in this growing field of application.
Anubis3D President Tharwat Fouad offered us the following. “It was clear to all experts that the technology will eventually become a main stream manufacturing process and have a significant impact on industry. One of the main missing elements in the evolution of 3D printing is user creativity”
You main ask the question, why change? Why take the risk of replacing an Aluminum milled part by a plastic 3D Printed part? Answering this question to early adopters took us 3 years of hard work to make the point clear. The question that our customers are now asking their designers is, why machine it, have you checked 3D printing it first?
There are few key points learned from this experience and it was obvious time and time again. The following are tips from Tharwat on companies looking to adopt 3D printing:
1- Introducing 3D printing to a company amounts to a cultural change, it needs a top down leadership and patience, learn about it and decide where is the best fit in the manufacturing process.
2- You need a champion in the organization to build success stories and then let it organically spread among the designers.
3- Understanding that designing for Additive Manufacturing is a skill that needs to be learned. It is like taking a part designed for milling and send it to injection molding company to build it, wont work. Parts that are intended to move to additive, needs to be carefully selected and resigned first. Simply taking a part from the inventory and getting a quote for printing it will get you the wrong answer.
4- Understand that introducing the industrial 3D printing is like adding a DeWalt cordless drill to your tool box. It can make a big deference, but on its own is not going to do anything, you also need to know what to do with it. Introducing Additive is the same. It will give your designers more ways to solve a problem and gain a comparative edge only of they know when, where and how to use it.
Join us on February 27 at McGill for this great opportunity to meet and learn from leading practitioners of 3D Printing and join the 4th Industrial revolution. View the agenda.
We have asked a number of Canadian experts in Additive Manufacturing to provide us with their views on the year by answering some questions. Additive Manufacturing – Year in review – 2018
As we approach the end of the year and look back, we see that a lot has happened in the world of Additive Manufacturing. To help bring the year into perspective, we have asked a number of Canadian experts in Additive Manufacturing to provide us with their views on the year by answering some questions.
- What trends have you seen this past year in AM?
- Any announcements from the past year that grabbed your attention?
- What is one thing from the past year that has you hopeful for Canada’s AM industry and what opportunities exist for Canada going forward in AM?
- What apprehensions do you have and what are some upcoming challenges?
- Any words of advice for those looking to use AM in the coming year?
These questions have been answered by (in alphabetical order):
- Peter Adams, President & CEO of Burloak Technologies Inc
- Dr. Mathieu Brochu, Associate Professor at McGill University
- Gilles Desharnais, President of Axis Prototypes Inc.
- Dr. Philippe Dupuis, President & Co-founder of Creadditive Solutions 3D
- Martin Petrak, Co-Founder & CEO of Precision ADM
- Cassidy Silbernagel, Expert in AM and Design, future PhD graduate
- Dr. Ehsan Toyserkani, Professor at the University of Waterloo
- Dr. Tonya Wolfe, Senior Research Engineer at InnoTech Alberta
Canada Makes would like to thank our contributors for taking the time to share their expertise.
What trends have you seen this past year in AM?
From my perspective,adoption of AM for series production has been the main trend in 2018. It seems that reliable, repeatable and affordable mass production is eventually on the horizon by AM processes. Hardware speed and quality improvements, reliable software and a larger pool of materials adopted for AM are some of the main eye-catching trends in 2018.
Major meaningful initiatives for full adoption of AM to the automotive industry have been surfaced. Thanks to the first point mentioned above.
The last year has been a turning point in AM here in Alberta from a perspective of AM being a technology for other industries in other countries to one that should be implemented in current practice now. There seems to be more designers using a desktop printer for visualization and prototyping purposes, so the growth into production will be an inevitable next step.
We have noted that AM is now a mainstream event at conferences and tradeshows both in Canada and internationally. It is no longer a small dispersion of companies but now has its own dedicated halls and conference streams.
The technology is reaching to more remote areas and enabling local ideation and manufacturing. However, risk of adopting premature technology is crippling the competitiveness of the local industries. Perhaps there is an overabundance of new technology and companies are anxious in deciding what areas are best for their growth?
Metal is king. FDM leads the way for Polymers… HP is now delivering and aggressively pushing MultiJet Fusion.
In the metal world, big industrial players have joined the field and are making their mark – Trumpf, DMG Mori, AddUp (Michelin-Five), GE are adding a layer of seriousness to the Powder Bed market. The “prototyping” manufacturers (EOS, 3D Systems, SLM, Renishaw), are now being challenged by companies that have experience in making robust industrial machines that can reproduce the same quality.
The metal presence at FormNext was impressive and the marketing investment by the metal players showed the seriousness that they put into this market.
There is also a big trend of powder metallurgy being used as a source of additive manufacturing of metal. People like BASF, DeskTop Metal, MarkForged, XJet, HP are bringing to market solutions that rely on the science of powder metallurgy to facilitate 3D Printing. Now, there are serious challenges associated to the powder metallurgy process that is causing challenges for these solutions, namely the challenge of the part shrinkage during the post processing which can alter dimensions of the parts. Most if not all of the manufacturers are investing into the post-process and software to resolve this issue, however, to date, the solutions are not stable and universally applicable. There is progress however, and these processes could significantly impact the cost of metal 3D Printing components.
On the Polymer side, HP Multijet Fusion seems to have finally ironed out the kinks in their systems and can now ship systems that are relatively stable. HP’s aggressive marketing appears to be generating results as the number of systems being shipped is growing.
For Thermoplastics, the continued advanced on the FDM front are apparent. More and more materials are being offered with most of the big engineered plastic players now present in the field… BASF, Covestro, DSM, Dupont, etc. In addition, numerous small production houses with their own recipes is increasing the scope of the offering. On the machine side, the low bar has been set for years, and now we are seeing a growing number of high temperature solution, and also, the growing availability of large format FDM printing.
It seems that the industry is moving away from printing cool trinkets and toys as a way to showcase the technology, and rather highlighting solutions to problems which the technology can help solve. This is a much better way to help change the mindset from the idea that 3D printing is just for making cool little plasticy things. The power of Additive Manufacturing comes from it’s potential applications, which requires a different mindset. Part of this shift requires seeing the solutions others have come up with, and that is much better done with actual plastic fixtures for tooling rather than Yoda figurines and toy boats.
As you know, I am only involved in metal AM. Some key aspects that I found interesting, but that can all be summarized under “pushing the boundaries of AM”. I believe the race to launch AM platform has slowed down, but strengthening of what is existing has occurred. We are seeing more automation of system (fully integrated systems), where human intervention is reduced and performance optimization is increased. The field has now pushed the boundary of maximum built angle with new and innovative laser raster path, we are seeing several attempts at increasing the built speed, with multi-lasers, new recoaters, attempts to increase the powder layer thicknesses, etc. New intergrated systems with built and sinter platform integrated, etc. All these developments will definitely contributes to bring AM closer to mainstream manufacturing.
Metal additive manufacturing applications are on the rise with a growing demand for metals like Titanium, Inconel and Stainless Steel.
Consolidation of AM equipment offerings by industry giants continued to dominate the discussion in 2018. Large manufacturers such as Stratasys jumping into the metal additive manufacturing space, following GE Additive’s new investments in metal technologies is exciting as it validates many experts’ opinion that the massive adoption of metal AM is right around the corner.
At Burloak we see customers moving from a tire kicking phase of evaluation into full blown qualifications of programs. This seems to be driven by several factors including – better understanding of the material performance – Better standards definition – the availability of multilaser AM systems which are lowering the cost of manufacture – A much more serious approach to identifying suitable applications and finally that the machine platforms are becoming more robust.
Any announcements from the past year that grabbed your attention?
Health Canada publishing a draft guidance document for the use of AM to produce Class III and IV medical devices paves the way to broader acceptance of this game-changing technology in the medical field for Canada. This announcement followed the CRIQ’s major investment in a medical additive manufacturing center in Quebec City and Renishaw’s opening of the ADEISS center in London, Ontario which all point towards Canada setting itself up to become a global competitor in manufacturing medical devices using AM.
Nothing in particular, but its more the sum of all the new opportunities, that now once integrated, makes AM even more concrete. The points discussed above.
On The machines side I would say that EOS announcement of the laser array system which will lower cycle times to fractions of todays systems for plastic builds signals where the industry is heading. Several of the major metals groups finally brought their multi laser technologies to market and there have been multiple developments on the post processing side which we like.
With respect to the AM supply chain I would say that there have been a number of very large announcements that signal a shift in the market. Burloak Technologies a division of Samuel announced its $104M AMCE in Oakville, Ontario. Carpenter Technologies announced a new large scale technology centre along with the acquisition of LPW. Oerlikon continued to roll out its $300M+ investment in its AM supply chain. Siemens opened its new Material Solutions technology centre in the UK with approx. $70M of investment and Voestalpine continued to open AM focused facilities.
I found it interesting that all of these announcements had similar themes with respect to what the industry perceives is needed to be successful in additive production parts manufacture in that all of the companies focused not just on AM machinery, but rather on the whole value proposition from design through manufacture, heat treatment, machining and materials qualification as part of the service. We certainly believe that these levels of investment are really the minimum to deliver certified production parts.
Canada has its very first Metal AM machine innovator and supplier: Nanogrande, that officially unveiled the MPL-1, the world’s first nanoscale metal particle 3D printer at Fabtech 2018 in Atlanta.
HP’ announcement that they will go into metal additive with a binder jetting – powder metallurgy type solution.
Burloak (Samuel) commitment to their new center.
One that stands out is the TRUMPF announcement of using a green laser in a production machine and that their new printer will allow pre-heat temperatures of up to 500°C. If these two things were in the same machine, it would allow almost any material to be printed because the energy from green lasers is better absorbed by almost all metals including pure copper and aluminium, and the high pre-heat temperature reduces the thermal differential from meltpool to solid, thus reducing the internal stresses in a part, and may allow for crack suseptable materials such as nickel super-alloys to be better processed.
We are very proud of Onstream Technologies using AM in pipeline applications. They are a success story of design and implementation of AM technology to improve their products.
We have also noted that large number of collaborations that are occurring in AM outside of Canada between sectors and types of organizations. The need to work cross-disciplinary has been realized and will strengthen adoption. This is happening in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, but has yet to be formalized in Western Canada.
Companies such as Ethiad and Navantia are fully adopting the technology on a variety of scales. I am not aware of Canadian companies fully adopting the technology yet throughout their practice or having an AM business unit. In Alberta, large companies do not yet understand where AM can be integrated into their processes, but change is starting.
I think the diagram Digital Alloys put out recently showing all the metal AM processes is telling of where we are in metal AM. There is a lot going on and we need to be cognizant that no one technology will solve all problems. There is also a lot of work to do to decide which processes meet a company’s manufacturing needs. For example, understanding tolerances in AM is not yet fully understood, but is critical for adoption into AM.
- BMW’s Additive Manufacturing Campus
- Carbon+ Adidas collaboration
What is one thing from the past year that has you hopeful for Canada’s AM industry and what opportunities exist for Canada going forward in AM?
I am hopeful the superclusters and the initiation of the HI-AM will be a supportive role for AM in Canada. The trade issues that have evolved recently have initiated discussions regarding reshoring manufacturing. We have a number of unique industries that will benefit from adoption of AM (energy, agriculture and marine). These industries need some time to redevelop their designs to take advantage of additive manufacturing.
I am an avid supporter for women in technology and manufacturing. AM makes manufacturing more accessible to bright, creative people. We have initiated an Alberta Additive Manufacturing Network, with the goal to make the technology accessible and at a lower risk. The number of participants will quickly grow over the next year.
GE Additive is being a phenomenal evangelist to the Additive Industry with their remarkable case studies for part consolidation as a driver to their manufacturing future. With this, GE is working with Canadian manufacturers allowing these opportunities from south of the border to stimulate the Canadian AM market.
We have seen significant investments in AM capability and capacity in Canada in 2018. There is great opportunity for Canadian companies large or small to become global leaders in the Additive Manufacturing value and supply chains. With Canada’s strong natural resource base, AM capacity and capability, as well as manufactured product export track record, I feel Canada will continue to be highly competitive in AM well into the future.
The above announcements have changed the pace of AM in Canada, both academically and industrially. Canada can be a leader in R&D and also AM adoption to different industries such as aerospace and automotive.
The discussion around AM is starting to shift from the verticals it has been typically constrained to (aerospace, for example) towards other sectors which were once thought of as more conservative and less promising. The automotive, energy as well as oil and gas sectors are increasingly joining the bandwagon for AM adoption, and we at Creadditive are seeing a lot of interest from the construction sector in exploring disruptive technologies which could help them address the challenges that are typical of labour-intensive and extremely complex multi-discipline projects. In terms of opportunity, Canada is a very natural-resource rich country, and has a very strong position in metal powder manufacturing with companies such as AP&C, Tekna, Pyrogenesis and Equispheres, so I hope we can learn from these success stories and build an AM material processing infrastructure around our organic materials resources such as petroleum-based plastics and bio-plastic from wood products for both western and eastern Canada.
Obviously you would expect me to say that the Burloak Additive Manufacturing Centre of Excellence was the major announcement that I believe puts Canada in a lead position. Beyond that, I think the continued adoption by academia is critical and very welcome although I do think that we need to be careful that these academic centres focus remains on R & D and education and not competing with industry as this will kill investment by the private sector. Another noteworthy event was the major expansions undertaken in Canada by AP& C and Equispheres.
I’m excited about Canada’s Innovation Supercluster Initiative and hope that it will help grow Canada’s AM sector, because right now it is very small and young compared to what is happening in Europe and the US. At the same time, this opens up great possibilities for growth and adoption in Canada for the technology.
To me, Canada is a raw material supplier and a end user of the technology. Massive investments in metal powder production is occurring to offer a wide variety of high quality products to the market. We are also seeing the number of printing bureau and OEM increasing the number of machine, testing the products, learning the technology. The important footsteps for a healthy AM adoption is on-going.
What apprehensions do you have and what are some upcoming challenges?
Although the level of misconception about the potential of AM has been reduced over the last few years, it is still a big challenge to control public and industry expectation. This may create negative impression if the technology readiness level will not be able to fulfil unrealistic conceptions that are wrongly disseminated in industry and public.
Other worry is the low momentum in the adoption of new materials to the portfolio of metal AM. For instance, more than 1,000 ferrous alloys are commercially available for conventional manufacturing such as casting, machining and forming; however, only a handful number of ferrous alloys have been verified for AM systems and limited production by original equipment manufacturers. Customization and validation of AM metal powders and introducing them to the market usually takes years of research and development. This may simply undermine the current momentum in AM
The biggest challenge for AM in the coming years will be the attraction and retention of skilled labour. The education network in Canada is strong and well versed in AM, but will most likely struggle to produce enough talent to compensate for the shortage. Companies will need to invest in training employees on the job instead of relying on a previously built skill-set. This type of training will also put pressure on the too-few equipment hours available in the marketplace already. In this sense, the challenge will be to create a model and ecosystem where academia can open the doors to laboratories and classrooms for industry and to create continuing education opportunities to reskill factory workers with skills in traditional manufacturing towards the technical skills required for AM.
I believe cost remains the main challenge. Cost with the capital “C”. Anything that will bring down the cost is a challenge to be solved if AM is to be mainstream and not only for smaller hi-end products. We have to keep in mind that the competing technologies are also getting technological improvements, it’s a ferocious competition. Talent is another key aspects, but numerous schools with various education level are tackling this issue.
We think that the industry leading OEM’s may try to commoditize the market too soon and that this would lead to investment shortfalls and the industry would not reach its potential. The powder supply chain may not be ready to meet the scale up although investments by AP&C, Carpenter, Praxair, Equispheres etc. make provides some comfort.
I am concerned about risk averse company culture and the fear of ‘being first’. We need to support retraining in the areas of mechatronics, design for additive, digital twins and data analytics. It will be very challenging to hire people with these skill sets for the foreseeable future, so they will need to be developed internally.
The lack of investment in capital infrastructure compared to other jurisdictions is concerning. It will be challenging to compete with limited resources.
My apprehension is the long term viability of Powder Bed with its significant overhead associated with supports.
I’m worried about the adoption level of AM in Canada. There is so much potential for it’s use, but Canada seems to be lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to adoption. Before there can be any meaningful growth in this area in Canada, individuals and companies need to be aware of what AM can do for them, which means a lot of education is required for this awareness. However, Europe gained this awareness a decade ago and are showing massive growth in this area, and Canada is playing catch-up. If Canada doesn’t rapidly adopt this technology, they will miss out on some potentially huge opportunities.
Any words of advice for those looking to use AM in the coming year?
I would say that you need to understand your motivation for trying AM and that you find a potential partner who can not only guide you through the process, but can demonstrate their technical competence and ability to scale with you to production.
Jump in and see what others are doing in the rest of the world with AM. Then try and find the experts who can help guide you in the journey to adopt AM. Realise that AM may not solve all of your problems, and it may not be the best solution, but on the otherhand, it could do all those things. It’s potential reaches beyond just prototypes and proof-of-concept. It can be used as actual end-use products, or help make those end-use products faster and cheaper.
Go before its too late. However, one need to understand that starting in AM is not as easy as it looks, and lots of efforts must be put down downstream of the first order is completed. AM is a fascinating field, but integrating all these multi-disciplinary field under one technology remains a challenge. Who would have thought we would go to the moon… and we did. Who would have thought 3D printing would be mainstream at one point in time, and it will happen.
There is opportunity for those who can provide design for AM solutions. However, the human element is more important than ever before. We need to collaborate, challenge assumptions and share ideas. AM cannot be done simply by uploading a drawing to the cloud and receiving the part in the mail a few days later. The best solutions are found by collaborative convergence.
Most engineers are still thinking linearly and need strategies to think organically. This process takes time and there are several failures leading to the final successful design. Companies need to support this process.
Start small but start now. Additive manufacturing is going to proliferate at high speed in industrial spaces as the business cases for AM gain traction and attention. The key issue will be to know when and how AM can provide an edge by adding value to a product or workflow, instead of trying to use this tool to directly replace other manufacturing processes where competition is fierce. In this case, incremental adoption can outperform complete workflow rework by ensuring the best process is chosen on its own merits, not due to its novelty or to its disruptive quality. Remember: “The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese”!
I would recommend that those companies that are looking to adopt AM start to have dialogue with key AM players in Canada (e.g., Canada Makes, Burloak, HI-AM, MSAM, etc.). This will minimize the risk of their investment. These groups emphasis strengthening collaborative interactions between academic researchers, the Canadian manufacturing industry, industrial organizations, government researchers, and international collaborators by addressing complex technical issues associated with metal AM.
My best advise to most organization and companies interested in AM is to invest in knowledge and formal training in Design for Additive Manufacturing. Keep an eye on new software developments that will make it easier to go from design to print in the near future.
Canada Makes is pleased to welcome Calgary based Exergy Solutions to its network of experts in 3D Printing. Exergy is a leader in 3D modelling, 3D printing, engineering and research to the energy, utilities and mining sectors.
“Adoption of additive manufacturing to help increase productivity and capability is about to take off for the oil & gas sector. Exergy, partnering with the Canada Makes network of experts, will be ready for the upcoming opportunities,” said Frank Defalco Manager Canada Makes.
“We have leveraged additive manufacturing to study revolutionary technology aimed at improving the competitiveness and environmental performance of the Oil Sands industry. Many of these technologies are game changers. Well positioned to drastically lower GHG emissions and eliminate tailing ponds. Canada Makes has already helped us to instantly build a network of additive experts across Canada. This gives us the opportunity to engage knowledge and experience coast to coast in improving an industry that is vital to the Canadian economy.” said Billy Rideout, President Exergy Solutions.
About Exergy Solutions
Exergy Solutions is focused on delivering innovation and step-change technological improvement to their customers. The creative team at Exergy has experience leveraging disruptive technologies and agile project management methods. Exergy believes in the enormous talent and technological know-how across Canada that can be used to accelerate the adoption of additive manufacturing. Together with their business partners network enable project development and effective integration of complete technology solutions. This wide-range of services include as-build drawings, drafting, 3D modelling, engineering design, 3D scanning, 3D printing, virtual reality and turn-key R&D projects. exergysolutions.com