As its global AM infrastructure consolidates and reorganizes, GE Additive’ materials division, AP&C has acquired the gas atomizer equipment currently installed at Avio Aero’s plant in Cameri Italy. For those who are not fully up to date, GE acquired AP&C when it took over Swedish EBM metal 3D printer manufacturer Arcam in 2014. Canadian metal powder manufacturer AP&C had been previously acquired by Arcam which made intensive use of its titanium powders. Arcam and AP&C are now part of Ge Additive while Avio Aero, one of the first and largest AM factories in the world (which houses several Arcam EBM systems), had been acquired by GE Additive and was one of the very first large ventures by GE into the realm of additive manufacturing.
Avio Aero’s technology is complementary to AP&C’s proprietary Advanced Plasma Atomization (APATM) process. As the additive industry grows, so does the demand for powder and materials – in particular titanium and nickel-based alloys from the aerospace industry. In anticipation for increased demand over the coming years and following a strategic business review, the gas atomizer technology previously installed since 2014 at Avio Aero’s facility in Cameri, Italy for the in-house production of powders of special metal alloys such as Titanium Aluminide (TiAl) is being transferred to AP&C’s facility in Montreal, Canada.
This move from Avio Aero’s Cameri plant to AP&C is in order to effectively better position additive manufacturing technologies available within the GE family. It allows both businesses to better focus on their respective areas – AP&C on materials and powder production and Avio Aero in Cameri on additively manufacturing aero engines components, using Arcam’s EBM technology and powders developed by AP&C.
The end of end-to-end (for now)
While the move makes perfect sense from an organizational point of view within GE it also marks a sort of “end of the dream” for Avio Aero. The Italian company was one of the very first that sought to build a fully integrated, delocalized, end-to-end production facility for Aerospace, with raw materials going in on one end and finished parts going out the other. End-to-end digital production remains the ultimate goal for AM but several hurdles still need to be overcome, from efficient and cost effective material supply to automated and qualitative part finishing. This move is a necessary intermediate step to optimize these processes compatbily with the current state of the market.
“Without ongoing materials science research and innovation, additive will struggle to advance. So, while this relocation makes sense commercially, it is also a key element of our future materials development strategy. Having this complementary technology in the AP&C portfolio, opens up wider possibilities for us as a business and also for our customers, who continually to want to push boundaries,” said Alain Dupont, President & CEO, AP&C.
The equipment is expected to be operational by March 2019. As a result, AP&C will become a preferred supplier of TiAl for GE Aviation, and also extends its technology portfolio and the ability to offer a wider range of possibilities to its customer through extended choice of powder processes. The gas atomization technology, which uses melt as starting material is particularly well-suited to powder recycling for those customers wanting sustainable solutions.
“The equipment moving to Canada means more volume and capabilities at our Cameri plant. And of course more 3D printing machines. In addition to focusing on additive processes we will also have the time and more space to train and equip our existing and new team members with future manufacturing skills,” said Giacomo Vessia, Cameri plant leader, Avio Aero.
The dream of fully delocalized end-to-end additive manufacturing is only delayed, as the industry continues to grow and consolidate globally through the moves of corporate giants like GE.