One of the biggest challenges to overcome in order for AM to be accepted as a production capable manufacturing process is the development of a sufficient number of sufficiently accurate standards. Developing a standard for new, digital manufacturing technology is not something that can be done overnight and requires an industry-wide collaboration. Not just between companies and regulators, but also between standard developers. Among them, TÜV SÜD has taken a very keen interest in AM: we spoke with the CEO of the Product Service Division, Holger Lindner, to understand more about what it takes to standardize AM.
3dpbm: How does TÜV SÜD work with regulators, private companies and even with competitors to build the framework for AM?
Holger Lindner: “The main issue we face is that existing standards were developed for traditional manufacturing process so there is a lot uncertainty about what you have to test in order to get a certification, which results in very long times to get an additively developed product market-ready.
3dpbm: Which challenges do regulators and companies face in “regulating” AM?
HL: The “pain” from the current lengthy part certification time requirements is felt among AM users and manufacturers – but also among regulators. They acknowledge that in some areas they don’t yet have all the knowledge needed to fulfill their job of getting products to the market that are safe, secure and performing adequately – and to do that fast.
3dpbm: How can these challenges be overcome?
HL: “We all need to work together to improve the current status and increase the level of acceptance of AM. Trust is the key. Another key aspect that needs to change is that, while in the past you could develop national rules, in AM the supply chain is global, which means that the technology is global, and parts are not produced in just one region. Collaboration among regulators, beyond borders, is of fundamental importance. It’s also a matter of speed. Local regulators realize that If they realize it takes time to develop their own standards, which may be just slightly different than those from a neighboring country. So, they take what’s good enough from existing standards and focus on something that is really needed. They acknowledge that they really need these collaborations. They also acknowledge that there needs to be a constant exchange on what works what doesn’t, along with gradual improvements and redesign of existing standards”.
3dpbm: Does this radically different ecosystem of AM make your job easier?
HL: “It makes our job more important. Now certifications are not just an afterthought after the product is developed. Now we move up to be a primary partner to the industry. AM stakeholders need someone who understands the regulatory framework and also the technology, with some authority to interact with regulators at a global level”.
3dpbm: From the outside, we sometimes get the impression that AM has more stringent certification requirements than traditional processes. Is this so?
HL: “Actually, not at all. Regulators are actually quite pragmatic and although you can know more about a part, you don’t really need to know more. In general, regulators want to know more about what has failed in the past with other technologies because there was a blind spot. With process monitoring, we can understand why a product failed. We don’t tell manufacturers how to make it better, but we can focus on why it failed and build this into the requirements.”
3dpbm: How can a conference like MTC3 help?
HL: “Like Oerlikon, we firmly believe in collaborations with all partners involved: we are here to understand what is still missing to make additive products commercially viable. We need to identify how we are going to produce better products and solutions; which skills and management processes are required and if the AM machines are good enough. Many potential industrial adopters still don’t have enough confidence to use AM products – then the bigger players, such as Siemens and GE, need to have the courage to really go beyond prototyping. What we can provide is vertical knowledge in aerospace and medical, from our partners along the supply chain. We can take what we learn here to the regulators, showing them what worked and what failed. We can build a weave-like ecosystem that makes a production run smoothly and rapidly.”