Producing critical components with Arcam’s Metal Additive Manufacturing

Turbine blade
Turbine blade

Additive Manufacturing is steadily gaining acceptance for production of critical components in various industries. In the forefront of the development in the Metal Additive Manufacturing sphere is Arcam, who experience an increasing number of production applications for their EBM (Electron Beam Melting) process, primarily within the aerospace and orthopaedic implant industries.

In a recent interview with 3D fab+print, Bruce Bradshaw, Chief Marketing Officer with Arcam, spoke about the impact of (Metal) Additive Manufacturing, the Arcam Group, and why customer stories are the best.

The technology probably closest related to Arcam’s EBM technology is DMLS, commonly referred to as laser technology. “They’re both powder bed fusion technologies but where Arcam differs is the energy source,” Mr Bradshaw explains. This results in a technique that is five to ten times faster in terms of melting and speed than lasers, which means higher productivity.

EBM in practice
Back in September 2016 GE announced that they were interested in purchasing Arcam. They are currently the largest shareholder for Arcam and negotiations are well underway. GE is creating a GE Additive division in which both laser technology and EBM technology will be part of GE. GE is also using EBM technology for production, through Avio Aero for example, a GE company in Italy that uses EBM to produce low-pressure turbine blades.
And there are many more companies worldwide that embrace the technique and have implemented this. Companies such as Rolls-Royce, Lima Corporate and GKN Aerospace are all using Arcam’s EBM technology. These users show the technology works for producing actual end parts and products. On the Arcam website there is a video section where their stories are made visual.  Arcam is telling these stories  because for them it makes more sense for other companies to actually see what the technology is capable of in practice, rather than read about it in a brochure. In this way Arcam are educating the market by telling their customers’ stories.
Inside a open door of an Arcam Q20plus, which is specifically designed for cost-efficient production of aerospace components.

Though Arcam is particularly known for its systems, the Arcam Group is a much broader organisation. “We have two other companies: AP&C, they are a powder manufacturer in Montréal Canada and they’re the largest AM powder manufacturer for titanium in the world,” Mr Bradshaw tells. And there is DTI: “the centre of excellence for orthopaedics for additive manufacturing in Connecticut”. With these two organisations as part of the Arcam Group the company has a full suite of solutions. “We’re a powder manufacturer as well as a contract manufacturer for orthopaedics, and a machine supplier.”

“We’re a powder manufacturer as well as a contract manufacturer for orthopaedics, and a machine supplier.”

When asked after the impact of the technique on aerospace and orthopaedics, Mr Bradshaw answers that Metal AM is definitely a strategic initiative for both market places. “They’re strategic because of product advantages. Light weight, lower cost, higher buy-to-fly ratios in the case of aerospace for example. And for orthopaedic companies, a big driver for them for example is to develop designs that promote faster bone ingrowth.”

To read the full interview, keep a close eye on your mailbox, since Arcam feature the Cover Story in the March/April edition of 3D fab+print magazine.