ADDere, the metal AM arm of Wisconsin-based Midwest Engineered Systems (MWES), has demonstrated how its Laser Wire Additive Manufacturing (LWAM) technology is a viable solution for large-scale metal 3D printing. The company says its technology is capable of building large-scale, high-mass components for industries such as aerospace, energy, marine, defense and more.
As powder-based metal AM technologies continue to progress, the focus has increasingly turned to the production of small-scale parts. In other words, scaling up powder-based metal AM processes has remained a distinct challenge. ADDere says its LWAM technology offers a viable alternative for manufacturers seeking to explore AM for larger scale parts.
“Currently, the AM focus has been on powder based metal systems. That focus had a lot of potential markets stuck on the outside looking in,” commented Scott Woida, ADDere President. “But those industries now see a legitimate 3D printing roadmap for their parts through what we’ve been doing with ADDere.”
The Wisconsin company’s LWAM technology uses a combination of laser power, which is used to melt the base material, and hot wire, which is used to pre-heat the welding wire. The system uses a 6-axis industrial robot to deposit the metal wire with flexibility and precision. The metal AM technology is compatible with a range of metals, including titanium, carbon steel, duplex stainless steel and Inconel.
To demonstrate the technology’s capability, ADDere 3D printed a series of metal blocks made from titanium and 17-4 stainless steel. The blocks all have the same dimensions (15 x 15 x 30 cm) and are completely solid (weighing 32 kg in titanium and 55 kg in stainless steel). Impressively, each large-format block took just over six hours to print.
According to ADDere, the blocks 3D printed using its LWAM process have better metallurgy than blocks made using more traditional casting processes. They also demonstrate how much mass ADDere’s process can deposit to build up a strong structure. Evidently, the LWAM process is not intended for the same applications as powder bed fusion systems—which are often adopted to achieve lightweighting goals. Rather, the technology could open up new applications for metal AM.
“We’ve already proven we can build things at large scales, these blocks show we can 3D print parts with substantial mass in a relatively competitive timeframe with casting,” added Pete Gratschmayr, VP of Sales & Marketing at ADDere. “Now real conversations can be had about printing large, high mass components like transmission cases, truck frames and turbine engine mounts without adding ‘in the future’ to the sentence. We can do it today.”