ZwickRoell, the world's leading supplier of materials testing machines, interviewed Andrea Pasquali, General Manager of Zare, and Lorenzo Trombi, Materials Engineering Specialist to talk about additive manufacturing, future developments and laboratory tests carried out in the in-house dedicated department of Zare. You can read the full article below.
Zare's experience, a multi-technological service company that has chosen ZwickRoell as a partner for materials testing
We took advantage of the summer to interview one of Italy's leading additive manufacturing service providers. ZARE has been at the centre of the additive revolution for years and recently joined forces with BEAMIT and PRES-X to create the most reliable and advanced international additive manufacturing partner.
Two company representatives took part: Andrea Pasquali, General Manager of Zare and member of the board of directors of the BEAMIT Group and Lorenzo Trombi, materials engineer and head of the department that carries out production checks and testing.
Let's start from the beginning: How did Zare come about and how did you arrive at the current business model?
The current business model was created about ten years ago to take up a challenge: to establish the company in an industrial sector different from that in which the company began and grew.
Zare was founded in the early 1960s as a service provider focused on precision mechanics. The economic crisis of 2008 was the trigger that led to us reflecting and opting to undertake a path full of unknowns in a sector that was, at that time, starting to take shape. Right from day one, the goal was for the company to achieve excellence: although the technologies, compared to mechanical machining, were and are different, the strategic models and the mindset to be partners of key and demanding customers remain the same.
This gave rise to a new project in which a consulting and multi-technological approach was immediately chosen. Unlike other companies that in the same period approached additive manufacturing by verticalising on a single technology, Zare embraced the model of offering the best combination of technology and material in order to offer customers the most suitable design solution. The consulting approach was appreciated by customers who, having overcome the initial reservations, were able to enthusiastically embrace the undoubted advantages offered by additive manufacturing and this led Zare to invest in order to transform itself into the first Factory Dedicated to Additive Manufacturing.
Additive manufacturing technologies using metallic powders were introduced in the company back in 2014 and from that moment Zare has followed a path of increasing specialisation, drawing on its past expertise of working with metallic materials.
Metal additive manufacturing means the production of small batches and final functional components. In 2018, Zare launched a new CNC machining department dedicated to the mechanical machining of additive components capitalising on its past linked to precision mechanics in the current additive integration.
What is your secret to being competitive?
The secret to being competitive can be summed up in a couple of points: being multi-technology and providing consulting so as to respond to the customer with the most suitable solution, focusing on their design project instead of immediate sale for greater profit.
A couple of points that, however, hide a rather complex process. Several departments are necessary for which coordination and dedicated staff are required; you need to have thorough knowledge of the entire supply chain and have an overall vision of an extremely complex activity.
How do you see the future of additive manufacturing?
I believe that the near future of additive manufacturing, rather than oriented towards increasing production, will be one centred on improving technology and research towards greater reliability .
What I just mentioned makes me consider that additive manufacturing will continue to offer advantages for small-volume production runs and pre-production, whereas for mass production, traditional production techniques will remain the mainstays for many years to come.
Systems are evolving towards greater process repeatability and towards higher general metallurgical quality. These are fundamental aspects to make production models more scalable in key but niche sectors, such as oil&gas, motorsport, aerospace, and aeronautics, where additive manufacturing promises both high performance and the ability to break down barriers that seem insurmountable with traditional techniques.
On a large scale, I believe that the technology still requires a lot of improvement, such as being economically competitive with lower overall costs.
Let's now hear from Lorenzo Trombi
Tell us about your role in Zare and your team
As a metallurgist and Materials Engineering Specialist, I manage the testing and metallurgical laboratory that we have set up within Zare. I am also in charge of metal additive manufacturing support activities such as heat treatments and the development of printing parameters for materials. In addition, there is advice given to customers regarding materials science, especially when the project requires specific properties (yield strength, tensile strength, hardness, etc.).
Then there is a more hands-on part that I deal with together with the team that concerns the carrying out of the tests inside the laboratory: specimen preparation, tensile tests, density evaluation, hardness tests, micrographic evaluation, etc.
We always talk about 3D printing vs AM: what's the difference?
3D Printing or Additive Manufacturing: this is an age-old question. The term 3D printing is a relic of the past, which came about from the dawn of this technology, whose first machines were considered as a sort of computer printer capable of producing 3D objects.
As a matter of fact, the first machines of this type had a lot in common with traditional office printers; the term has stuck, even if we have moved on considerably from the concept of printing.
For sure, 3D printers still exist, but when it comes to industrial components, I believe it is more correct to speak of additive technologies, that, compared to traditional production methods, involve adding material rather than subtracting it.
Additive Manufacturing is much more complex and varied than printing: it is a genuine production technique and even bodies such as ASTM and ISO, which deal with the definition of technical standards at a US and global level, have highlighted this difference. In everyday language, 3D printing and additive manufacturing are used synonymously, but it is more correct to consider 3D printing as a non-specific part within the complex area of additive manufacturing.
What kind of work do you carry out and for which areas? With what kind of materials?
Zare is a service company and there is a vast array of processing, ranging from one-off productions to small-scale runs with everything else involved both in terms of quality and management of orders. The materials portfolio is extremely wide, in particular for metals which includes steels (stainless steel, high-performance martensitic, etc.), nickel, titanium, aluminium and cobalt-chrome, all with various types of alloys and particular characteristics.
Tell us why you chose a ZwickRoell machine for your laboratory tests
In our laboratory we use the Z100 TN, a universal Material Testing Machine with a capacity of 100 kN, which allows to carry out different tests and which we mainly use as a tensile testing machine.
In order to measure the deformations of the specimen, following the application of a certain load, we have chosen to equip ourselves with a MakroXtens® automatic extensometer that performs measurements directly on the specimen in an extremely accurate way compared to those carried out by analysing the transverse movement.
In the Zare laboratory we chose the MakroXtens® automatic extensometer both for reasons of practicality and for the fact that it is better suited to a flexible and fast-paced production laboratory. The extensometer actually allows the measurement of all deformation parameters up to the breaking point of the sample and thanks to the automatic closure of the arms on the sample, it does not require any operator intervention, ensuring reliability and repeatability of the results.
We chose ZwickRoell after seeing the machine in action. The Z100 TN is a sturdy, well-built machine with a small footprint in terms of the tests it is capable of carrying out.
After using it, it also proved to be extremely reliable. Not only is the hardware excellent, but also the TestXpert® management and control software is straightforward, practical and easy to use. A further benefit is the support offered by ZwickRoell, which is always super fast and able to offer solutions and proposals that perfectly meet requirements.