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Winner of AM Pilot Institute Announced

August 19, 2012

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 06:30

Last Thursday (August 16), more than 150 invited guests gathered at M-7 Technologies in Youngstown, Ohio for the official announcement of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII). The National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) in Latrobe, Pennsylvania was the primary applicant for the team that was awarded the pilot institute. The group, which informally referred to itself as the “TechBelt team,” is a network of universities, community colleges, industrial partners, and non-profit organizations, primarily located in tri-state region of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. Youngstown will be the physical hub of NAMII.

Speakers at the event included Rebecca Blank, Acting Secretary of Commerce; Gene Sperling, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy; Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense; Brent Lambert, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense; Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown; and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan. Other government officials in attendance were Neal Orringer, Director of Manufacturing at the Department of Defense, Michael Molnar, Chief Manufacturing Officer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Jennifer Fielding of the U.S. Air Force Research Lab.

NAMII is the pilot for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), a one billion dollar network of up to 15 institutes proposed by President Obama in March 2012. The goal of NNMI, according to a Department of Commerce statement, is to “accelerate innovation and increase U.S. manufacturing competitiveness” by bringing together federal agencies, states, industry, universities, and community colleges to “invest in industrially relevant manufacturing technologies with broad applications.” NIST, which is a part of Commerce, will serve as one of the managers of the program. The NNMI concept and its 15 institutes will require congressional support, but the NAMII pilot is already fully funded by several federal agencies, principally by the Department of Defense, coupled with matching funds from other organizations.

The announcement, bidding process, and subsequent award of the pilot institute have stimulated a lot of interest and excitement in the AM industry. Another benefit has been the unprecedented amount of collaboration, partnering, and communication among countless organizations across the U.S. We are grateful to be a part of the wining team and are looking forward to doing everything possible to make NAMII a resounding success. I attended Thursday’s announcement and the energy and excitement at the event were stimulating. My sincere congratulations to Ralph Resnik, President and Executive Director of NCDMM, for leading the TechBelt team.

Metal AM Development in South Africa

August 4, 2012

Filed under: additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 08:02

Note: The following was co-authored by Tim Caffrey and Terry Wohlers

Aeroswift is an important South African project currently in the works. Launched in 2011, the goal of the project is to design and build an additive manufacturing system capable of building large titanium parts, and building them fast. The system will use a 5-kilowatt IPG single-fiber diode laser capable of build speeds that are 8.3 times faster than other laser-based metal AM systems, according to the developers of the system. What’s more, the system is expected to build parts up to 200 cm (78.7 inches) in length. The Aeroswift system is scheduled to be assembled and tested by early 2013.

Project Aeroswift is a joint initiative of South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Aerosud, an aerospace manufacturing company based in Pretoria, South Africa. Aerosud employes 650 people and supplies parts and major assemblies to Boeing, Airbus, and others. The Aeroswift project is supported by the South African Department of Science and Technology.

South Africa is the world’s second largest producer of the minerals used to make titanium. However, the conventional process for extracting titanium from the raw ores is expensive and complex. CSIR has developed a novel process for extracting titanium powder from the mineral ores. This new process is now being commercialized, and a pilot plant is being built this year. Given the country’s vast mineral resources, Aeroswift is a natural complement to the country’s vast mineral resources and its new method of processing titanium.

This project is certainly worth following. Currently, many structural titanium parts in aerospace are too large for commercially available AM systems. Aeroswift may change that, and with its projected build speed, could change the method of manufacturing of titanium parts in aerospace.