S021_PROC-852.2015

ACHEMA Worldwide News2/2015

for burner tops of gas turbines. The development of the 3D printing market is impressive: Roland Berger estimates the global market volume to reach US$ 7.7 billion by 2023. In 2014, it amounted already to more than US$ 3 billion. Many players in the process industries are currently exploring the opportunities additive manufacturing offers to them. Chemical companies like BASF and Evonik develop new materials for 3D printing. Pump manufacturer KSB is testing laser melting for the production of parts. The engineers in KSB’s development lab see not only the advantage for their service business. There are also additional features: With 3D printing, parts with cavities or open-pore structures are accessible, creating light-weight components while maintaining the mechanical parameters. Festo has even printed a complete bionic grappler that weighs 80 % less than its conventional metal counterpart. Open Questions Nonetheless, additive manufacturing will not replace conventional production technology, at least not in the foreseeable future. Even though the technology is highly innovative, for a true mass production it is too expensive and not fast enough. Economies of scale cannot be realized with 3D printing. Its strength lies in the production of highly complex custom solutions. And the degrees of freedom it offers have to be used right from the start through the concept phase to capitalize on the potential for complicated geometries. This is also a prerequisite for an economic use of 3D printing. Even though much less material is required then for milled or cast parts, the material is 50 to 100 times more expensive than that used in conventional manufacturing. As for speed, today about 10–20 cm³ per hour can be printed — meaning that it may take several days to print a large part. The printers are becoming faster; by the beginning of the next decade, production rates of up to 80 cm³ are expected. But this is still a far way from the requirements of mass production. Furthermore, some questions regarding standards and quality management in safety-relevant components are still open. To answer them, a new generation of engineers is required: Additive design needs to be introduced in the educational curriculae. Despite these limitations, experts are convinced that additive manufacturing will change the face of the industry in the long term. They see it as a complementary technology to today’s mass production methods. Rather than waiting for a revolution by the one “killer application”, they recommend an evolutionary approach, identifying examples where true value can be created for products, projects or whole industries. The inherent interdisciplinarity stimulates additional ideas: The requirements of the users lead to innovations not only in printing technology, but also in material development. On the other hand, 3D printing allows for the processing of materials in small series, opening the way to completely new applications. In any case a playground for creative minds whose limits wait to be explored. n Picture: J.M. – Fotolia (Still) dreams of the future: 3D printing of a chemical plant


ACHEMA Worldwide News2/2015
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