Is additive manufacturing the future for reman?

  • February 28, 2017
  • ReMaTec News
  • Views Technical

The big question in this issue regarded additive manufacturing (AM): while 3D printing and other methods sound exciting, are they really any more than science fiction for reman at the moment?

Peter Hopkinson, MBA director, Bradford School of Management  
“3D printing has been used to repair steel beams cut out of existing buildings. There are other applications: printing teeth, replacing limbs, even the ability to print and construct a house in a day. It’s not cost-effective at the moment but it is technologically feasible. Who knows? Things are moving so fast. If you think about digital technology 20 years ago, people were still thinking about desk top computers as this was before smartphones and iPads. So things may happen with additive manufacturing in ways that we just can’t envisage at the moment. Maybe it will be used for local fabrication. But it’s certainly happening: it’s moved out of the lab, that’s for sure.”

Jean-Paul Borsten, director, De Sutter  
“I won’t say it can’t happen but there is a long way to go. The problems are the quality that you can buy, as well as the cost – and also mostly the products that it is useful for. Things like water outlets don’t go wrong much and they are easily available anyway. Demand for them is very simple to fill in another way – buying a new or used part. 3D printing will be a solution in the future for obsolete and hard-to-find parts – but for the average reman company, I don’t see it yet. Customers would accept printed parts – if they work. But printing the parts is one aspect of it: making good enough drawings from which to print makes it more expensive than printing. I don’t know how much you will be able to do with it. We have bought a PLA printer and a wire printer, and they are fun to play with. We sometimes make dummies for mouldings to see if things will fit – then we make the drawing and send it away to someone who can print metal. So it does have a purpose but I think it’s far from becoming widely-used at the moment.”

Michael Haselkorn, director, Golisano Institute for Sustainability  
“To make one or two components - or even 40 - using 3D printing, I agree, is probably not cost-effective. However, if a number of separate parts can be combined into one part then 3D printing then can become cost effective. That is what GE did for their ignitor. They combined a number of parts into one part and eliminated the welding required – but again that is aerospace which can afford more expensive parts. However, for the reman industry 3D printing can be cost-effective if the reman component is cast or injection-moulded and new moulds need to be fabricated for low volume runs. The costs of designing and making the moulds might be higher than the cost to fabricate 3D the component, especially for longer production runs.”

Scott Dunham, vice president of research, SmarTech Markets Publishing
“Remanufacturing is definitely an area we're watching for metal AM, specifically directed energy deposition technology - however our near-term view is more closely aligned with aerospace opportunities. Most aerospace remanufacturing applications fit the current value proposition for AM a bit better than that in the automotive industry, however we certainly see it as a future opportunity in both segments. Our latest automotive study does not cover in any significant depth remanufacturing using AM in automotive applications and instead is focusing on potential growth in assembly tooling, production tools, increasingly functional prototype components, as well as low to medium volume production parts in a range of potential materials.”