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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.