GKN Sinter Metals recently became the first automotive supplier to begin series production by metal AM, using Additive Industries’ MetalFAB1 AM machine. The machine, first unveiled at formnext 2015, Germany, has won several awards including ‘Best Development in 3D Printing’ at IDTechExShow! 2016 in the USA and the prestigious Red Dot Award.
GKN’s Dr Simon Höges recently spoke to Additive Industries CEO Daan Kersten about the company’s success and future projects for the new GKN Sinter Metals Innovation Blog. The interview is republished here by the kind permission of GKN Sinter Metals.
Höges: What is so revolutionary about your AM system and what makes it stand out compared to conventional systems?
Kersten: “What really differentiates us is that from the very beginning we designed our system for series production. Other systems in the market were developed for prototyping, which means current systems are mainly set up for printing one-off parts and there is quite a bit of manual labour involved.
Our MetalFAB1 system for series production is fully integrated and includes pre- and post-processing steps like stress relief heat treatment. Besides that we have automated both powder and build plate handling so there is next to no manual labour involved.
The MetalFAB1’s modular architecture also affords the user maximum flexibility with the option of expanding the scope of the process to increase productivity as needed. Unique also is the Additive World software platform we developed to fully support the 3D metal printing workflow and data exchange.”
Höges: Tell us about the GKN and Additive Industries partnership and how both parties benefit from it.
Kersten: “Our partnership is multi-faceted – it started when GKN bought the MetalFAB1 Beta machine and entered our Beta program to test the system, provide feedback on performance and help us to optimise the system process and machine operation. GKN and AI are now beginning to focus on how to optimise the use of GKN powders and explore the possibilities of using water-atomised powders.
GKN and AI are now beginning to focus on how to optimise the use of GKN powders and explore the possibilities of using water-atomised powders”
In terms of our integrated AM series production system, total cost per part is crucial, so we continue looking at lowering these costs for 3D printed parts by eliminating labour, reducing the system costs and increasing productivity. Together with GKN, we are working on reducing the material costs as well.”
Höges: Additive Manufacturing in the Automotive Industry: What are the main challenges from a machine builder perspective and what role does GKN play here for you?
Kersten: “In the automotive industry the requirements are high in terms of productivity, reliability and predictability. Together with GKN, we continue to drive improvement of both performance and cost levels.
We really want to work on system development for larger volumes, and as a major player in the automotive supply chain, GKN’s know-how in automotive production is practically unrivalled, as they produce 11 million car parts per day. Because they are so intimately familiar with high volume production, they are the ideal partner to help us test our system in light of those stringent automotive requirements.”