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Why more companies want to make 3D-printed metal parts

03-29-2016 01:04 PM CET | Business, Economy, Finances, Banking & Insurance

Press release from: Hasit Vibhakar

3 D Printing

3 D Printing

Alcoa, a colossus of the aluminum and metals industry, is currently building a new additive manufacturing center with a $60 million price tag in Pittsburgh. Its purpose: To serve as the main production site as Alcoa begins developing a line of powdered metals made specifically for 3D-printing applications. What Alcoa’s new center represents, however, is a broader shift taking shape in the additive manufacturing industry.

Hasit Vibhakar, an additive manufacturing engineer believes more companies in a variety of sectors are interested in using 3D-printed metals for end-use parts. But when it comes to 3D printing in metals, there are currently two problems to surmount. Hasit Vibhakar thinks one is the overall cost of not only the additive processes by which metal is printed, but also of the 3D printing machines and the support staff needed to run them. The other is the cost of the metal materials themselves and the lack of metal materials made specifically for 3D printing.

Hasit Vibhakar stated that Alcoa is hoping to find solutions for both problems when its new additive manufacturing center opens.
“There are just a few materials available today that are usable within 3D printing of metals,” Hasit Vibhakar said. “A material developed as a feedstock for one additive process may not be, and in fact is unlikely to be, the optimal material for the next additive manufacturing process.”
Today companies that produce metal parts via additive manufacturing processes are using powdered titanium, nickel, aluminum, and steel. Direct metal laser sintering is a common way for these powdered metals to come together to make solid objects. It’s how industrial conglomerate General Electric produced the fuel nozzles for its bestselling aircraft engine and Solid Concepts created a working firearm, said Hasit Vibhakar.

But optimizing powders for 3D printing is the challenge. Solving that challenge would not only mean a greater number of powdered metals for use in 3D printing, but also cheaper powdered metals. Hasit Vibhakar commented that this is the sort of task for which Alcoa is well-suited. The company has nearly 100 years of experience in the atomizing process (the means by which a molten metal is converted into a powdered metal).
While the technology is fascinating in its own right, the business imperative is driving the research in cheaper powdered metals made specifically for 3D printing. Companies’ primary reasons for investing in additive manufacturing capabilities are the cost reductions that accompany collapsing the manufacturing supply chain. When GE, for example, chooses to invest $3.5 billion to purchase the 3D-printing machines that can produce metal parts and train the staff needed to run them, it’s not doing so because the technology is cool—it’s doing so because that’s where the additive manufacturing industry is headed.

Hasit Vibhakar compiled a report that document results that more than 80% of 700 survey respondents from the manufacturing industry said further development of strong yet lightweight metals for additive manufacturing is what they want the most. Stratasys and 3D Systems, two titans of the 3D-printing sector, are keen to make inroads in metals printing as well. The increasing focus on what metals printing will do for the overall additive manufacturing industry—currently valued worldwide at $4.1 billion.
The market for prototyping via 3D printing remains weak but metals printing continues to grow at an impressive clip. More than just a new way for companies to make end-use parts, direct metal printing represents an area of revenue growth for an industry that has struggled to live up to the hype.

About Hasit Vibhakar

Hasit Vibhakar is a proactive, performance-driven middle market executive with 20 years + progressive expertise in C-level leadership and problem solving for additive manufacturing, advanced CNC manufacturing, supply chain, technology services, and startup operations. Proven track record of enhancing enterprise value and shareholder value. Experienced at building small cap and middle market companies.

Hasit Vibhakar is an Industrialist specializing in strategic direction and growth. A seasoned c-level business executive with many years of proven track record of building enterprise value and shareholder value. He has successfully started eight technology, industrial and manufacturing enterprises and all have been successfully acquired at premium multiples in the industry. Prior to being a serial entrepreneur he has been employed with leading aerospace, telecom, technology, industrial and supply chain based companies.

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