The evolution of additive manufacturing from prototype to final product brings considerable benefits to various industrial sectors and, in particular, to those characterised by a high degree of complexity and criticality. The standardised production of finished components is undoubtedly made possible by innovative technologies and materials, but also by the integrated approach which, in an organized and structured context, combines a series of activities aimed at optimizing the entire project: the Research and Development Centre, the Analysis Laboratory and topological optimization.
Production of finished components using 3D printing
The Zare additive manufacturing facility is structured to cater for numerous types of client, thanks to the quantity and variety of machinery and materials available. Highly qualified staff and in-house specialized departments work in close contact with clients to identify the ideal solution for their project.
This is made possible by the adoption of an integrated approach: with Additive Integration the different company departments work in unison, starting from the Research and Development and the Analysis Lab, following the supply chain up to the production and CNC Machining, where necessary.
The organisation of our AM Production Factory is particularly suited to meeting the needs of the most exacting clients, such as those operating in sectors in which very high added value is required, guaranteeing excellent performance even in critical conditions. In these sectors - for example, motor sports, automotive, defence and oil & gas - management of the project is also a critical aspect: documentation must be precise and punctual and processes standardised and repeatable.
Documentation and process repeatability are fundamental. In January 2020, Zare was the first Italian additive manufacturing service to pass the audit for IATF 16949, the certification for the automotive industry; this certification guarantees quality, but also implies the production of precise and in-depth documentation, typical of series production, as proof that additive production can also be successfully exploited for the series production of finished products and components.
Reducing lead time: Additive Integration at work for the Oil & Gas sector
Clients coming to the AM Production Factory are increasingly seeking a definitive 3D product that is financially viable and with comparable costs to conventional manufacturing.
Hence the importance of the work carried out by the in-house R&D centre and Analysis Lab within the AM Production Factory; they study the most suitable powder to meet the ideal criteria for a high quality product with rapid delivery times and at an acceptable cost for the client. An interesting case we worked on concerned the Oil & Gas sector.
The project was extremely complex, as it involved the production of a machine made up of 18 kits each containing 4 components: a total of 72 components. Traditionally, the machine in question was produced by microfusion using Alloy 263, a material which is poured into a mold and cast under vacuum. Since this is a complex procedure offered by very few facilities, delivery times were considerable, and a further disadvantage was a very high level of waste material.
Therefore, the client was looking for a solution which would reduce the lead time while remaining on target for costs: additive manufacturing turned out to be the perfect answer. We are able to produce the 18 kits needed in under a month, when conventional methods would have taken far longer; we then went ahead with the production of 2 further series of 18 kits on the client's request.
To achieve this result, the input of our Research & Development centre and of the Analysis Laboratory was fundamental; their first task, performed by the R&D Centre, was to fine-tune the powder for the purpose: Haynes 263 is not actually an alloy specifically meant for additive manufacturing, and it was necessary to parameterize it for the required use; then, the Analysis Lab performed a series of tests aimed at ensuring flawless laser sintering.
Subsequently, the design was considered, and the decision was that no modification was necessary to proceed with additive manufacture: microfusion is also a production method that lends itself to complex geometry.
Innovation and economic viability
Having evaluated the purely technical issues, it was then necessary to consider the market for the product: the aim was to achieve a product that was viable from the economic point of view; it is not a question of prototypes but of finished items for direct introduction on the market.
We therefore turned our attention to the issues linked to the product’s economic viability, with the optimisation of processes for this particular order. Although critical industrial sectors allow us to work with budgets that are not necessarily tight, wasting resources remains unacceptable. A new technological approach is adopted only on condition that the cost remains on target for the relevant sector, regardless of the benefits and improvements made.
With Additive Integration it is possible to achieve relative affordability in a large number of cases: all elements of the project are analyzed and then considered as a whole in order to obtain maximum efficiency and find the break-even point.
An evaluation of economic viability results in finished products which are capable of embarking on the market.
Zare AM Production Factory is not merely a supplier, but a genuine partner, at the disposal of clients seeking an innovative process using the most advanced additive technologies integrated with Research and Development, Analysis, CNC machining and topological optimization.