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Using 3D printers in industry

Using 3D printers in industry


At the end of the twentieth century, with the development of electronic programmable technology, new production technologies were developed. In particular, the technology for manufacturing new parts and products without machining or removing layers of material appeared. This technology involves a process that is the reverse of the traditional one - obtaining a part or article by layer-by-layer application of material - plastic, ceramics, and metal powders. The parts are a full copy of a three-dimensional model, drawn in the computer. This technology is called "additive manufacturing" in Western countries. Add, translated from the English language, means "to add, to increase".


In the twenty-first century, the range of materials used in 3D printing has grown significantly. Already in the past paper and plastic products, now it is possible to obtain parts from metal, concrete, glass and biomaterials, and it is possible to obtain fully functional products consisting of several separate parts and assemblies. This technology allows to obtain parts and products without additional mechanical and thermal treatment, which significantly reduces the technological cycle time of product manufacturing.


Software for 3D printers and computers is also developing quite rapidly.


The greatest use of 3D-printing is in such industries:


  • aerospace industry,

  • automotive and machine-building industries,

  • military-industrial complex,

  • medicine,

  • construction industry,

  • electronics and radio engineering,

  • production, where it is necessary to develop and manufacture high precision products with a shortage of time.

As a rule, units that produce products and use additive technology are called 3D printers, and manufacturing products with their help is called printing.


But this is a very general definition. Recently, this method has been developed with the use of special equipment in some related industries.

In particular, such directions are being developed:


- Selective laser melting - SLM technology. This technology involves using a laser, the laser beam has a very small diameter - about 20 micrometers, which makes it possible to obtain parts with given dimensions and surface roughness with a sufficiently high accuracy 


- Laser stereolithography - SLA technology. A laser beam is used to form the outline of a future product on the surface of a special photopolymer. Then the product is immersed in the polymer to the thickness of one layer to form it. When replacing the laser with a projector - DLP technology, the product is not formed layer by layer, but all at once. This reduces the time needed to print the product.


- Selective laser sintering - SLS technology. This method uses a powder material from which a product is formed under the influence of a laser beam. The forming powder is applied to the base plate and the product is formed from the powder material layer by layer, with each lowering of the plate to the thickness of the next layer. The material is sintered in a chamber at a temperature slightly lower than the sintering temperature. To prevent oxidation, the chamber atmosphere is oxygen-free .


- Electron Beam Melting - EBM technology. This technology is used to produce articles of refractory materials and alloys by means of an electron beam in a vacuum. This method produces products with especially pure specified chemical composition and physical and mechanical properties.


- Fusion modeling - FDM technology. This technology involves the use of expendable raw material (wax, plastic, metal) in the form of a thread. This thread is fed into a press with heating, through which it is squeezed out onto the work-cooled plate in the form of a thin thread. The thread is deposited in a dense, even layer and forms a layer of the product to be formed. Then the plate is lowered to the thickness of the next layer, and the operation with application of thread is repeated.


- Multi-jet modeling - MJM technology. This method copies the surfacing method, in which the press is replaced by a jet head and the workpiece is melted to a liquid state.

- The lamination method is LOM technology. The working material of the blanks is in the form of thin films, which are glued together by temperature and pressure. The product is cut out of the resulting monolith, using a laser beam or metal cutting tool. As a result, particles and even pieces of material from the workpiece may remain on the product, which causes the need for an additional deburring operation.


- 3D printing - 3D technology. This technology is similar to the technology of selective laser sintering - SLS, which does not use the melting of the workpiece material. The workpiece material is in the form of a powder, which is glued by the liquid adhesive fed from the inkjet head. Often dyes are added to the glue to produce a color print. Multiple inkjet heads feeding the adhesive may be used.


- Computer Axial Lithography. This method of 3D modeling is based on computer tomography from photo-cured resin 


For example, Vadim Pinskiy explores an AI platform that can be applied to existing 3-D printers that’s capable of detecting and classifying spatial errors at any printed layer within that part and uses that data to automatically adjust in the inner structure of subsequent layers to maximize the performance of the entire part. This system is able to increase the overall yield of a production process and reduce the overall variance of the produced parts, can be used in any 3-D printing application, and isn’t limited to adaptive manufacturing.


World practice of using additive technology methods


Three-dimensional computer modeling has become an essential part of many spheres of production, construction, energetics, cinema production and scientific work. Computer modeling and natural reproduction of objects in three dimensions is actively introduced in all spheres of human activity. This approach to the production of objects gives significant savings in material and energy resources, as well as in time.


The rapid development of additive technology methods has resulted in cheaper 3D printers and consumables. The choice, nomenclature and application areas of these materials are constantly expanding.


Additive technologies are becoming widespread in our lives because


- allow to obtain a product with a significantly reduced cost as compared to the manufacture of a similar product by traditional technological methods;

- allow making significant changes and additions to the product design, which satisfy the customer's needs in a rather large spectrum;

- have a minimum technological cycle;

- provide for automated control of the manufacturing operation;

- require minimum manufacturing time of the product.

American Golden European Corporation is a pioneer in applying this technology to industrial production.



The most demanded 3D printing technology in manufacturing and repairing gas-turbine generators, and aircraft engines of LEAP family, which are used in Airbus F320neo, Boeing 737 MAX and COMAC C919 airliners.

Much attention is paid by Gehranal European to the production of 3D printers themselves. One of the latest developments by the company's engineers is the Atlas high-performance inkjet 3D printer for printing metal products .




Another recent development by the company's engineers is the Atlas Titan Robotics 3D printer, which is positioned by the company as the largest 3D printer that uses selective laser melting - SLM - technology to produce parts.


With the increase in parts produced with 3D printers, the company faced the challenge of accounting for and verifying additive manufacturing processes, consumables, and parts. This challenge led to the creation of block chain technology, a data storage and transfer technology to create a data archive for production verification. This database contains data relating to all production processes involving parts made with the help of additive technologies.


3D printing makes it possible to obtain both good-quality and poor-quality copies of a part or product in the shortest possible time. With blockchain technology, it is possible to automatically create an archive with real data about the passage of a part or an assembly through all operational processes. This information makes it possible to exclude from further technological processing, submission for assembly and sale the parts or assemblies made with violations of technological and production processes, which means that control over defective products and timely application of measures to isolate defective products can be assigned to various automatic devices, under human control, of course .


Vadim Pinskiy  thinks that the use of digital technologies and special equipment for product manufacturing allows reducing the technological process and time for the creation of the product, but at the same time does not give a complete picture of the compliance of the finished product with all the parameters of the sample, technical standards and the computer model created by the designer.


Gehranal European specialists are working on a solution to this problem. They expect to save twenty-five thousand dollars per engine produced by converting the manufacture of parts and assemblies to production with the use of additive technologies. Ten percent of the company's output is produced using additive technologies.


Recently experts from Siemens, NASA and other industrial giants in America, Germany, Japan and China have been actively using additive technologies in the production of parts.

Turbine Technologies (Wisconsin, USA) and its subsidiary Kutrieb Research, a company that specializes in turbine engine design and manufacturing, are actively using additive manufacturing technology to manufacture key gas turbine components such as blades.



When manufacturing engine turbine blades, a very expensive part, using the traditional method - precision investment casting - the development of the technological process takes many four or five weeks, and manufacturing parts with the help of 3D-printing can reduce the time to produce the product to one day.

Economically, the additive technology of manufacturing such parts, which require the most precise execution and the fewest adjustments, is about ten times more profitable than the old traditional technology.


Chinese automotive electronics manufacturer TE Connentivity supplies its electronic components to many of the world's automotive manufacturers. Its engineers design and manufacture multi-component systems such as sensor systems, vehicle computers and navigation units. These products are in need of continuous improvement and are required for the assembly of cars constantly and in large quantities. To speed up the development and manufacturing of such systems and assemblies, the company management decided to use additive technology, which would allow to get new designs, designers and engineers more quickly, with subsequent manufacturing.


Additive technology significantly accelerated the process of development and production of existing and new products, increased the volume of profit and inflow of new capital, accelerated the process of winning new markets for products.


The techniques of the new technology are used in the design and creation of foundry master models. The company's clients got an opportunity to see and evaluate in full physical volume a prototype of the future product, which considerably increased customers' confidence in the company and increased demand for its products.

The cost of the equipment purchased for the implementation of additive technology, the company worked off in a year. Now the company's specialists are able to react quickly to changes in the market and demand for their company's products, which makes it possible to avoid loss of profits and be more flexible and mobile than its competitors.


Nippon Katan Corporation, a Japanese electrical company that manufactures and installs power transmission lines, has also recently applied additive technology to the production of components and assemblies, such as power brackets, insulators and fasteners.


Additive technology has also begun to make its way into areas of human life. Many construction companies began to reconsider outdated ideas about construction technology after a group of specialists from NASA in 1995 introduced to the general public the first large-scale 3D printer, with which they were going to build shelters for scientists and even astronauts, who will conquer not only the poorly explored areas of our planet, but also the universe.


The design of the 3D construction printer is simple enough, because of the large size of the products produced with it, and the tolerances on the product are large enough, not requiring unique accuracy.


In principle, it is a framework metal structure, which has in its composition concrete pump, concrete feeder hose and a software package that monitors the process of constructing a structure, a computer three-dimensional model of which is embedded in its memory. These machines can print buildings out of concrete, while leaving room for the installation of metal reinforcing elements.


Chinese specialists were the first to master construction 3D printers. An entire residential complex was built in Shanghai using 3D printers. The working area of a 3D construction printer can be up to 150 meters long and 10 meters wide. With such a printer, it is possible to print a building 6 meters high in a few days.


Concrete products such as wall panels, floor slabs, staircases, and platforms, which are subject to considerable static and dynamic loads, must be reinforced with metal rods and elements.


European construction companies prefer to use a 3D printer to print the simplest building elements, such as foundation blocks, wall blocks, lintels over window and door openings. From which the bearing and self-supporting frames, beams and slabs are assembled during the construction of the building.


3D modeling of the building makes it possible to use the terrain. Taking into account the curvature of the surface, you can build load-bearing walls of the foundation, exterior, interior walls of the building and all the annexes, which significantly reduces the cost of building materials during construction.


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