By Peter Roberts
Simple ideas are often the best.
And in manufacturing, if they are based on one of the world’s best accepted and understood industrial technologies, all the better.
This is the path Andy Sales, CEO of additive manufacturing technology company AML3D took when he saw how conventional wire arc welding could be automated and repurposed as an additive manufacturing technology.
Other metal 3D printing systems utilise exotic technologies, lasers and novel metal powders to progressively build up layers that form a product.
AML3D’s Wire Additive Manufacturing (WAM) technology feeds wires to an arc welder mounted on an ABB industrial robot – essentially melting a wire with an electric circuit to form molten beads, then more beads that build the final product.
According to Sales, once he recognised the additive nature of arc welding ‘I immediately thought, this is very obvious, why aren’t we using this technology now?’
Last week AML3D was celebrating a first contract with The Boeing Company to manufacture a 150kg mandrel tool artefact for Boeing made from ‘Invar-36’, a material that expands minimally when heated.
According to Sales the tool will be made in a few days compared to the six to 12 months taken by traditional machining methods.
So far first movers such as Perth shipbuilder Austal, and armour manufacturer Lightforce Australia have been the ones to manufacture components using AML3D’s Arcemy production cells (pictured below)
But the Adelaide company, positioned as it is in the centre of a fast-growing naval ship construction centre, is wasting no time to set itself up for the future.
At its Edinburgh Parks factory, a vast space has been set up with seven Arcemy units, another two are destined for the company’s factory in Singapore and two have been built for third party customers with more on the way.
Last month @AuManufacturing reported that Adelaide’s Rowlands Metalworks had installed an Arcemy unit – it makes the sleek machine enclosures that announce Arcemy is much more than an automated welder.
And at the recent and Forces exhibition AML3D, with an eye on Australia’s massive naval shipbuilding program, displayed a range of marine parts such as propellers, bell housings and Panama chocks which guide a ship’s mooring lines to the shore.
Arcemy has all the benefits of 3D printing such as speed, little waste produced and so on, but uses well understood and certified wire feedstock that allow it to 3D print pretty much any metal that can be welded.
Of course there is a great deal of science in AML3D’s WAM control software and its robotic integration.
But it can still be the simple things that work the best.
Subscribe to our free @AuManufacturing newsletter here.