#8 How to Benefit from Metal Additive Manufacturing

Design to Product
Design to Product
#8 How to Benefit from Metal Additive Manufacturing
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Welcome to the Design to Product Podcast!
In this interview episode, we talked to Yashwanth Bandari.

How can additive manufacturing (3D printing) change the manufacturing world? Yash Bandari is the Business Development Manager at Additive Technologies and Co-founder of Meltio. We talked about the actual applications of additive manufacturing, specifically about metal and large-scale additive manufacturing, where you should consider additive over traditional technologies and where you shouldn’t.

Today we talked about:

  • Additec Technologies goal
  • Where to use additive developments to make better products
  • Where to start additive manufacturing journey 
  • Additive manufacturing applications
  • Where additive manufacturing is heading in the future
  • How to choose the best process and material to use for a specific application
  • Large scale and innovative components of Additec

Transcript:

Adar: Our guest today is Yashwanth Bandari, business development manager at Additec Technologies. Yash, hello! Welcome to the show.

Yashwanth: Hi Adar, thanks for having me on. 

Adar: So tell us a little bit about Additec Technologies, about what you do. 

Yashwanth: Sure. Additec Technologies is a wholly US based company based out of Palm City, Florida. Additec Technologies was founded in 2015 in Nevada. Right from day one, Additec’s goal was to innovate how metal products are manufactured. So that is why, right from 2015 until 2019, Additec has been successful in creating prototype systems using a novel additive process called laser metal deposition with wire andor powder. 

Adar: Yeah. So, you deal with additive manufacturing for years now, and one of the things you’re dealing with right now is metal additive manufacturing. The industry has gone through some interesting developments. What did you see throughout the years and what happens now?

Yashwanth: When I started my AM venture in 2010, at that point, additive manufacturing, mostly it was called 3D printing. It was just like a buzzword. Everybody was talking about it. They’re still trying to get details more about 3D printing. What exactly is 3D printing? Where exactly it is used and how can industry leverage the 3D printing process at the point and most of them, they were making these 3D printing parts using these plastics and then came the desktop level 3D printers out of, again plastics and polymers. So that’s how it got started right from the buzzword. And then over the last ten years I’ve seen giant leaps. I’ve seen giant leaps in additive manufacturers moving from just the toys or from prototype parts to actually now creating fabricating parts for real life scenarios right from the aerospace to space to energy sectors. 

Adar: Where do you see the opportunities there? So where do you see if the engineers or people who build products that listen to us right now? Where can they use additive manufacturing developments in order to make better products?

Yashwanth:So it’s a versatile technology additive manufacturer is versatile. Although having said that, I should say that the aerospace sector has been the forefront runner right from the late nineties to early 2000s. They were the first ones who put forward the step and wanted to come out of this conventional way of manufacturing and then opt for additive manufacture. Clearly their materials are like, mostly like titaniums and aluminums which have high strength to weight ratio and as you know, like titaniums they’re very expensive in general and also they’re very difficult to machine as well. So every bit of saving is a vendor situation for both the industry and the aerospace companies. So yeah, they were the forefront runners and they invested a lot in additive manufacturing and now over the last ten years or so, different sectors, different sectors like energy sector especially and space sector. Recently we have been seeing rocket parts being built using manufacturing. So that’s a giant step. And when I was traveling to different trade shows like five or six years ago, when I was talking to customers coming from castings or automobile industries, they weren’t that open and flexible to try out new ways of manufacturing, which is 3D printing here and now. They are very much flexible and trying out new ways. It’s kind of difficult. Like everybody wants to get into additive manufacturing but they don’t know where to start. So that’s where my role is. Going through with the customer, going through the numbers, crunching down the numbers, coming up with business cases. At the end of the day, people are realizing that additive manufacturing can replace everything with respect to manufacturing. It’s case by case. Material plays an important role and then the dimensions of the part playing an important role and additive manufacturing right now is in such a position that at least most of the systems can make good geometries. The best parts, I would say, but the best parts there’s still a long way like, getting through the QA and QCs, getting through the standards..

Adar: Right. So people come and ask you, I want to start with additive manufacturing. Where do I start? What do you tell them? Like where are the places where they can start implementing this technology? Because some people know, they know that you can make more complex geometries. You know that you can have more possibilities, get better costs for parts like break the limits of the design. But where does it make sense and where does it not?

Yashwanth: The best part about my job is I get to talk to people who are very novice with respect to additive and then who are like top experts in additive. So on the far end of the spectrum, people who don’t know where to start additive manufacture, the best thing about additive manufacture, I tell them is you have seven different processes. That’s the beauty of the additive manufacturing process where you can pick, choose, depending upon the material, depending upon the application, depending upon the geometry. So broadly, I would classify metal AM and most typically into two types: Powder Bed Fusion processes and DEED processes. If a part is small, complex, which has fine features, mostly it will be coming under part of the fusion processes. And on the other side, if a part is relatively simple to medium complexity and it could be a small or medium or large scale component, then in that case it’s most likely they’ll come under DEED. But in respect of which process it goes, I think the geometry is the one which defines the business case. There might be some simple geometries where you don’t have to use additive manufacturing. So in that case, probably the existing, the convention manufacturing, it could be subtractive or it could be forging or casting might be okay because at the end of the day, additive manufacturing is still a new process. So it takes a little bit of effort to fine tune to the R&D and then get to the standards, check all the things in the standards and then come to the final goals. For all these things, it will take some time and then unless we put down the numbers, it’s very difficult to forecast which part makes sense for a customer. So, yeah, first and foremost is the geometry, the second is the material and then third is the application. So all these three put together is something I’m always interested to know and I can guide them which process makes sense. 

Adar: Got it. Just to understand so complex geometry that is hard to create with subtractive manufacturing or conventional methods are now suddenly more possible. And that’s one of the things that can be useful. Maybe getting more lightweight components is also a consideration. Is that right? So what kind of applications would I tell to an engineer that now you have an opportunity to think differently about the way you design and to build that component for a new technology that they might not have been aware of?

Yashwanth: In a way, if it is a long component made out of like titaniums and nickel based alloys, probably, it’s easy to create a business case for DEED processes. Again, under DEED processes, you have four main processes depending upon the features, depending upon the size, thickness and material. We can pick, choose one out of those DEED processes, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t happen over fortnight I would say. It takes a few weeks to a few months, a few years as well to qualify the material too. And everything is driven by cost, like how people are flexible and open minded. To try these approaches is the key. So these are the drivers for additive manufacture and for some scenarios, if you put down the numbers and then crunch down, the business case might not be there. So in that case, probably just a sub manufacturing. 

Adar: Keep going, yeah. Keep doing the same things that you used to do. 

Yashwanth: Exactly. Because in additive manufacture, it’s just not about printing parts. That’s what people think about. That’s just like the 50% of it, the rest of the 50% you know, are you getting the good parts, what I call it, as born qualified parts? So the parts coming out of the printer, are they good enough to be put in an aircraft? That’s a big question. Right? I mean, I always take the aerospace industry as an example because they have stringent conditions. If you’re able to achieve aerospace standards, then you don’t have to worry for different sectors. So it takes time to first print the part itself, figure out the R&D, figure out all the process fixes. And then the second thing is, are you getting good properties? So that is a big thing. And then that’s a very good metallurgy question. If you are not able to achieve what’s going on, then you have to do a lot of reverse engineering. So what’s the bottleneck? Is it the process or is it just the hardware or what type of performance they’re looking at? Is it like tensile, fetch or corrosion assistance? So all of these things put together, it takes a lot of time later, a lot of effort. But people are realizing now that you spend time now, you don’t don’t have to spend time later. It’s a long term shot, not a sprint. I’m seeing people being more open and more flexible apart from aerospace.

Adar: Right. And what do you see right now in the market? Where is it heading in the future? Which applications could be interesting? What are the trends? Like, what about costs that might be changing? Tell us what you see.

Yashwanth: Yeah, absolutely. I keep an eye on our competitors, I would say on all the AM processes. So right now additive manufacture are at a stage where there are a lot of companies, a lot of processes, a lot of newbies. The good thing is at least they are able to come up with some new and rigid reliable systems so that at least you can print parts. But what my gut says for the next five to ten years is anybody can build parts. But can you build upon the standards? First of all, do you know the standards? If you’re for example, oil and gas component do you know the standard from with respect to the oil and gas specifications or from the material standpoint? And a couple of things are missing so as to make this additive more robust is the reliability of the system itself. Because there’s not much datain a way where you can see which system is good because most of these companies are maybe like five to ten years old. So there’s not much of a data whatever features are there in each system and whatever type of features are needed to qualify upon. So I would have to go into three main types. The first is reliability and the system development. So there’s not much of a data which system is good, which system has all the features? It could be hardware or it could be software too. I know software is most underrated but software is also very much important and what different systems are capable of doing or what materials can they print? And I’m sure like every day we come across every new material. So can we place that traditional material within additive material so as to get the cost and time started down and then the design tools. So this applies to most of the processes in additive manufacturing. If you have a part, if you have a CAD model or can you use the part as is in most of the scenarios? Not sure. In that case, if you have It designed for additive software, from part to build design how would you change them? And then you have knowledge expert system inside the software or not? Or what about computer aided planning? So always put together the design tools, I would say. So system developments, materials and the design tools constitute the bottlenecks at the moment and I’m not sure if a lot of companies have these tools within their grasps. 

Adar: Yeah, because it’s like special tools that you have to get out of your probably for SolidWorks or any other CAD design tools that you have to work with in order to be able to get to design for additive manufacturing specifically. 

Yashwanth: So these are all the things that I’m missing which will make sure these additive processes like some processes they’re at like MRL 67. On the other side some processes are at a low MRL stage. So how can these processes move from the low MRL stage to the high MRL stage? Because this is the one which highlights what process is best for the real life scenarios. It could be materials perspective or it could be a hardware thing or could be the auxiliary processes or it could be anything the design related process. So all this together will make any process rigid enough so that it can basically manufacture real life components. The best part about additive manufacture is there are many processes, right? There are so many processes and each process has each application. For example, there might be a process where you can’t use titanium or there might be a process where you can’t use aluminum like lasers and aluminum, they have a hate hate relationship. Something simple, coppers as well. But then on the other side some processes like normal make processes, they struggle with titanium. That’s the beauty of additive manufacture where one part can’t fit into so many processes, but it can fit into the one best process both from the cost and the technical standpoint. 

Adar: And how do you choose the best process? Like what’s the process of evaluating which processes, materials should I use for this specific application?

Yashwanth: If I take a step back, a lot of people ask me also, oh in a short span, you work at a lot of organizations. But I look at it from a different side. Since I worked at different organizations I had literally hands-on experience working on different processes. And now I’m in a position to guide which process makes sense from the customer standpoint. So, if a customer comes and comes with a CAD model and says hey, which process to use? The first thing is you have to understand what’s the motivation? So, what’s the motivation for the customer to come to us and ask so, is the conventional way not going well? In most of the scenarios? The customer says especially for the last two years, the supply chain issues, everybody knows about the consequences and the lead times are massive, can range anywhere from six to even like 24 months. That’s massive. And the best thing about additive manufacturing is you’re cutting down most of the supply chain issues where with the help of one machine, you’re cutting down all the intermediate steps. And then in most of the scenarios, additive manufacturers are open for design changes but not castings or forgings. If you’re changing the design, then you’ll have to go through everything. So, this is one of the good things about the manufacturer where design changes are very much flexible. So you look at the part and every process has some design guidelines. If it has large overhangs and it’s a complex feature where the feature size is like less than 1 mm or 2 mm, it becomes a good process for part of it, a fusion process, it could be laser part of it or electron beam part of it for your process. Depending upon the material, we can picture if it is like titanium or nickel based alloys, it’s obviously laser PBF. And then if it is a large component, most of the PBF processes, systems that are commercially available, leaving one or two, they can’t build more than like 500 millimeter long components and they’re very slow as such. So, again, this takes max me to the first question. What’s the motivation for additive manufacturing? So, if you’re building a part which takes the same time, similar to the conventional way, but then there’s no business case, right? You have to put down capital cost, the machine cost and the time for engineers. So all of this put together could not make a good business case. But on the other side, if you’re building a large scale component like out of titaniums nickel based alloys, it is very difficult. And then the geometries, like maybe hollow for example, when you use subtractive manufacturing, there’s a lot of material based stage. So in that case, yes, that’s the DEED is the best process. On the other side, if you have a complex component, like a small scale component and the low feature size and you want high tolerances, that’s when the part of the fusion process comes. And then on the other side, I get to see a lot of people coming from repair applications to repair side. The other day I was reading like an automobile, they repaired like 10 million turbine blades. That’s a difficult number to believe, but it is what it is. So, yeah, these processes, they can not only manufacture components, but they can also repair applications which will tremendously reduce the cost as opposed to making new components and reduce the lead times. And then of course, it makes our environment clean.

Adar: Yeah, that’s fascinating. You mentioned that you print very large components and very innovative components. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Yashwanth: Yeah, absolutely. We are proud, Additec Technologies are proud that we build a very large scale component. We use robotics to build large scale components. The best part about robotics is that the cost of robotics is low. And then robots have the inheritance feature of robotics. If a robot has six degrees of freedom as opposed to just three axes printing on most of the systems. So this six axis, or what it gives rise to is a seamless pay of building components, not just in one axis and all the six axis whereby you can print complex features or like complex overhangs or complex overhang features easily. And what we are doing innovatively is we take a robot and we add a positioner which gives two more degrees of freedom in addition to the degrees of freedom, thereby giving eight degrees of freedom where you can make

Adar: Eight degrees 

Yashwanth: Yeah, eight degrees of freedom. Yes, absolutely. Where you can make supportless parts seamlessly, actually. So yeah, even the positioner gives us a lot of advantages. You can turn till the part where you don’t have to move the laser head a long way, thereby controlling the process very well as opposed to moving the laser head. So we have a system that comprises of a robotic system and then the positioner, it’s all enclosed in a cell or an enclosure, we say, from health and safety standpoint. Also, the cell can withstand the lasers and depending upon the material, we use local shielding or global shielding. And as we speak, we are building a massive component, close to like ten meter long component. Ten meter long sections, actually.

Adar: That’s amazing. Yashwanth Bandari, Business Development manager, Additive Technologies. Thank you.

Yashwanth: All right, thank you very much, Adar. Thanks for having me on and have a good rest of your day. 

Adar: You too.