The world's first conference on the subject of metal additive manufacturing was held in Vienna in mid-November.
It was the first conference in the world ever to have focused on the manufacturing process known as “generative production” exclusively for metallic products. As a result, 150 experts from 19 nations were keen to take advantage of this opportunity and attended the conference in Vienna. The conference was organized by ASMET, the Austrian Society for Metallurgy and Materials, in cooperation with voestalpine Edelstahl GmbH.
Metal parts directly from the printer
3D printing in plastic has now found its way into private households. It is easy to use programmes and blueprints downloaded from the internet to manufacture plastic parts at home. However, the production process is much more complicated for metallic products: the printers need metal powder of the right composition as their raw material and, accordingly, this demands metallurgical know-how. The 3D printers themselves are also much larger and more complex.
Even so, the generative production of metal parts has become part of industrial life. Components are produced for aviation; power plant constructors use this method to repair worn parts; medical implants made from materials such as titanium are now industry standard; the automotive industry also uses this process. At the moment, 3D printers are still used for manufacturing small batches or for customized production. However, the path to serial production is no longer far away. The advantages of 3D production are clear: the most complex of parts can be manufactured with a minimal loss of material, and
- at any time
- at the touch of a button, and
- in the number required.
Wilhelm Meiners from the Fraunhofer ILT, and laser melting process patent holder, believes this will become a mass phenomenon within three to five years. Franz Rotter, president of ASMET and Head of the Special Steel Division at voestalpine, knows that this is an extremely short period of time.
"This new form of production forces companies to consider completely new business models and value chains."
Experts exchange ideas at the conference
Over the two days of the conference, the speakers, as well as experts, researchers, students, and the business community, gained an overview of the current status of metal additive manufacturing at all points along the value chain. Armin Wiedenegger, Future Markets Business Development and conference organiser stressed that: “When selecting the podium speakers, we felt it important to have representatives from each step of the value chain. From powder manufacturers, software programmers, and printer constructors, through to researchers, manufacturers, and product users. We are proud to have achieved this.” The list of speakers covers renowned institutes, universities, and companies such as the Fraunhofer Institute, the Vienna University of Technology, the Montanuni Leoben, the FOTEC Wiener Neustadt, Technical University of Graz, University of Applied Sciences Wels, through to Carpenter, Phenix Systems, Concept Laser, FIT Production, Eifeler, ESI Group, OHB System, Fronius, MTU Aero Engines, and Avio Aero.
The aim of the conference was to make participants aware of the technological and economic relevance of the subject. This goal was certainly achieved, if not exceeded. In any case, thought is being given to repeating the conference in two years’ time.