After the successful start of the voestalpine Additive Manufacturing Center in Düsseldorf, Germany, this past year, the voestalpine Group’s High Performance Metals Division consistently continues its international expansion of this pioneering technology.
In April 2017, a new research center for 3D printing of highly complex metal components started up operations in Singapore. Two more production plants will open up in Taiwan and Canada in August and the fall. At the same time, voestalpine is investing some EUR 20 million in expanding metal powder production for additive manufacturing at its subsidiaries Böhler Edelstahl GmbH & Co KG, Austria, and Uddeholms AB, Sweden. In total, the implementation of the additive manufacturing strategy runs to around EUR 50 million.
The company believes that metal additive manufacturing—also referred to as 3D printing—has revolutionized metal processing like no other process. Digital design data is used to add material layer by layer in order to create highly complex parts with completely new forms and functionalities without any material loss. The base material is different types of processed metal powder. Despite the technical challenges, metal-based additive manufacturing offers a lot of future potential, especially in sectors such as the aerospace, automotive, toolmaking, and medical industries that require very sophisticated custom products.
“voestalpine, with its comprehensive knowledge in manufacturing metal powder and in the design, development, and production of ready-to-install components, is a global pioneer in 3D printing. We want to consistently push ahead with our activities in this area by setting up new research and development centers in non-European growth markets.” Wolfgang Eder, CEO of voestalpine AG.
Regional and technological expansion
In September 2016, voestalpine opened the Group competence center for metal additive manufacturing in Düsseldorf that today has 14 employees who are primarily involved in development. Just about four months ago, the first expansion step took place in Asia: The setup of the voestalpine Additive Manufacturing Center Singapore Pte. Ltd signifies a technological expansion of European activities and opens up access to this growing market in the Southeast Asia region. While the team in Düsseldorf is known for producing finely structured, lightweight small parts and tools, the Singapore team specializes in manufacturing and repairing objects weighing up to 600 kilograms.
“In line with our global service strategy, we are successively establishing metal additive manufacturing services close to our customers. The focus is on applying different additive manufacturing processes to best meet their individual requirements.” Franz Rotter, Member of the voestalpine AG Management Board and Head of the High Performance Metals Division
Next: Taiwan and Toronto
The voestalpine Technology Institute Asia that will open in August 2017 in Taiwan is the Group’s third research center for metal additive manufacturing. The center will have its own technology that supplements the other research centers’ technologies. At the same time, capacity for high-tech printing for both research and commercial purposes is being built up in Toronto, the first voestalpine site for this manufacturing process in the NAFTA region.
To keep up with the increasing demand for high-quality metal powders (e.g. based on stainless steels, tool steels, nickel-based alloys, and titanium) for 3D printing, voestalpine is increasingly investing and expanding capacity at the Group companies Böhler Edelstahl GmbH & Co KG, Austria, and Uddeholms AB, Sweden. Following the setup of state-of-the-art atomization lines for powder production at the two sites in 2016, a total of EUR 20 million is currently being invested in similar systems.
Working in close cooperation with the new research centers, innovative powder types that are even more corrosion-resistant and stronger will be developed for increasingly sophisticated applications. Both voestalpine production companies benefit from long-standing experience in manufacturing powder steels. In total, the voestalpine Group is currently investing around EUR 50 million in building up leading expertise in the area of metal additive manufacturing.