[Image above] Credit: IPAS institute for photonics & advanced sensing; Flickr CC BY 2.0
According to the Wohlers Report 2017, additive manufacturing has burgeoned into a booming $6.063 billion industry.
And although the additive market experienced softened growth in 2016—hitting just 17.4%, a downturn from the 25.9% growth of the 2015 market, it’s clear that this is a swiftly growing industry.
And I’m not just talking about hobbyists and tinkerers, although the desktop 3-D printer industry contributes to a significant portion of the market. Industrial additive manufacturing, although it’s been slow to rise, is gaining momentum in the manufacturing sphere.
In fact, experts predict that 2017 will mark a year of increased industrialization for additive manufacturing. Whereas additive has been used primarily as a prototyping tool in the manufacturing world thus far, signs are indicating a maturation towards using additive as a production tool.
That’s because, in addition to producing finished goods, additive manufacturing is increasingly finding its place in process automation, using robots to make manufacturing more repeatable and industrial, according to an article on Redshift. “When it comes to repeatable processes, consider a company like Michelin, which prints close to a million metal tire molds per year. It’s not printing the tire itself, but a component that helps realize the end product. More of that approach—printing the thing that makes the thing—is certainly in the cards this year. And one final nod to industrialization is consolidation within the industry. GE’s recent moves are a big part of this, and it’s a sign of the industry’s genuine acceptance.”
GE has not only been leading the charge in industrial efforts in additive manufacturing, but also in industrial implementation of ceramic materials, particularly ceramic matrix composites. The company has invested $200 million in the past couple of years for advanced manufacturing facilities to start churning out silicon carbide fibers and silicon fiber tape to be used in jet engines and land-based gas turbines.
And going back to that Redshift article, it also predicts that ceramics will be one of the top industrial additive manufacturing trends for 2017. “Ceramics is also starting to become a bigger additive player, and it will likely be the next wave of development for mold inserts and detailed components in machines.”
Some companies have already been leading the way by using ceramic materials to additively manufacture finished goods and more. Companies like Lithoz GmbH (Vienna, Austria) are developing additively manufactured ceramic materials for production-scale manufacture, because additive affords engineers the flexibility to design ceramic parts based on functional requirements, rather than designing systems around available parts.
Other companies, including Tethon 3D and HRL Laboratories, have recently made big advances in adapting and innovating with ceramic materials for 3-D printing. It all adds up to the fact that ceramic materials are gaining momemtum in the world of additive manufacturing, which has primarily been dominated by polymers and metals.
In a changing and growing world of additive manufacturing, however, it’s hard to keep track of all the options—and there are lots of them. Which is precisely why Senvol, a company that runs analytics for the additive manufacturing industry, developed a comprehensive database for industrial additive manufacturing resources.
The Senvol Database is the “first and most comprehensive database for industrial additive manufacturing machines and materials.”
The free online database, built from manufacturer’s spec sheets, catalogues industrial additive manufacturing machines and materials in two separate databases that are searchable with more than 30 fields, quickly allowing users to narrow down particular machines or materials of interest.
And because it only includes products for industrial additive manufacturing applications, the database allows manufacturers to ignore the noise of options only suitable for desktop 3-D printing applications.
“We’re very excited by the Senvol Database because it’s an extremely useful tool for everyone in the additive manufacturing industry,” Senvol President Zach Simkin says in a news story from America Makes. “There has been a growing need for a tool like this and we’re pleased to provide the industry with a solution.”
The entire materials database now contains 1,292 fully searchable materials, including composites, ceramics, metals, polymers, sand, and wax.
Materials can be searched by any or all parameters—allowing users to search broadly for material type, such as “ceramics,” or specifically for various desired parameters or properties, including mechanical properties (tensile strength, tensile modulus, elongation at break, flexural strength, and flexural modulus), thermal properties, hardness, density, and more.
The database currently includes 20 ceramic materials, which are supplied by a handful of companies: 3DCeram, DWS Systems, EnvisionTEC, ExOne, Lithoz, and voxeljet. And judging by the recent predictions and indicators for ceramic materials in the industrial additive manufacturing market, those options might soon expand.
Search the Senvol material database here.