Material efficiency plays a major role when establishing additive manufacturing. The technology is fundamentally different from subtractive procedures like milling or grinding, where up to 90% of the initial material is sometimes removed in order to obtain the desired geometry in the application. The same applies to forming procedures like punching, for example. This too produces significant material waste and is a weak point in established manufacturing processes.
All 3D technologies form applications in a material-efficient way. Only the amount of material that is required for the application is processed and not the amount needed by the production method. However, most 3D printing procedures are currently restricted to manufacturing prototypes or small series runs. This means that no relevant amounts of material are saved in industrial terms.
This is not so at Exentis. Its ability to handle large-scale series production makes the difference:
One customer, for example, is currently manufacturing special palm-sized automobile parts by punching and needs about 3,000 tonnes of special steel a year for this. About 78% of the material is “punched out” and discarded for each component in the current manufacturing process. That does not seem to be a great deal at a component level. In terms of annual production, however, manufacturing the identical parts with Exentis 3D Mass Customization® means saving 2,340 tonnes of steel or preventing one hundred 40-tonne articulated trucks, each of which has a payload capacity of about 24 tonnes, from transporting material. This prevents 200 consignments, delivering them and disposing of the waste.
This example of just one single application already shows how seriously Exentis is taking its responsibility regarding the consumption of materials. As a result of using Industrialized Additive Manufacturing from Exentis, additional and extensive pre- and post-machining work becomes unnecessary and the production process is significantly streamlined.
Savings in energy and water
A laser melts powder in some 3D production processes, for example, for selective laser sintering. The powder is compacted, the individual particles melt with each other and the shaped structure emerges. This 3D printing or sintering process is repeated for each layer until the object has been completed vertically. This may involve several hundred layers, depending on the component, and therefore requires a great deal of energy for each part.
Things are different with Industrialized Additive Manufacturing from Exentis. The Exentis 3D screen printing technology is a cold printing process. It does not focus on an individual part, but sometimes makes thousands of parts at the same time. This prevents the need for elaborate cooling processes that are usually based on water cooling systems. The energy balance is much more positive, however. Instead of sintering processes related to individual parts, thousands of industrial parts are combined with the Exentis process and are sintered at the same time in a final and separate process stage. This saves energy and protects the environment.
Optimising logistics chains
By manufacturing screens overnight or within a few days, if the geometry is complex, customers can design the quantities and geometries of parts that are produced precisely to the needs of their final clients. There is no stockpiling of parts. On the contrary, “Exentis 3D Rapid Tooling” offers the opportunity of completing a wide variety of product variations promptly, in a flexible manner and at attractive costs for the first time. Compared with injection moulding, for example, which allows similar production quantities as Exentis 3D Mass Customization®, there is no need for the time-consuming and costly production of tools or moulds. Both can take several months. Just-in-time production of parts for customers means lower stocks and warehouse costs. There is no need to store spare parts for decades, for example, in the automobile industry. They can be made in batches using 3D printing when required.
Exentis firmly believes that the launch of Industrialized Additive Manufacturing marks the start of a rethinking process. Why should large quantities of parts be made in low-wage countries, if it is possible to restrict or prevent the international transportation of goods by re-regionalising industrial production, in addition to the advantages already mentioned? This is a further significant benefit for handling resources in a responsible and reasonable way.
Rethinking industrial systems
Industrialized Additive Manufacturing systems will not replace traditional procedures. However, there will probably be more hybrid process chains in the foreseeable future, which combine additive and conventional production processes. The opportunities presented by Industrialized Additive Manufacturing make it possible to redefine cost structures and therefore rethink industrial systems, which do not depend on manufacturing their products from semi-finished materials. On the contrary, the workable raw material and the generative power of Additive Manufacturing will play a major role in restructuring value creation systems, ecological balances and associated production patterns.
Exentis recognises its overall responsibility to draw attention to effects related to sustainability and play a leading role itself in establishing new additive production paradigms that are suitable for future generations.