Metals and plastics made into precisely customized products – in tailored designs and in a single digital process. The topic of “additive manufacturing” is an important part of thyssenkrupp’s innovation strategy. “For the first time we can focus entirely on the design itself without being bound by the limits of conventional manufacturing processes – that creates entirely new innovation potential,” says Dr. Reinhold Achatz, CTO of thyssenkrupp AG. In collaboration with colleagues from the new TechCenter Additive Manufacturing (AM) at Corporate Function CO/TIS, a specialist team at Marine Systems is also exploring possible applications in the ship and submarine sectors.
The Canadian yacht designer Gregory C. Marshall has big plans: “We are deep into the possibility that we could print an entire yacht using 3D additive printing.” And additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, has also arrived at thyssenkrupp Marine Systems. There is still a long way to go before we can print whole ship sections or even entire boats but the foundations are already being laid today at Marine Systems.
Following nature’s example
The limitations of conventional production processes seem to be eliminated by additive manufacturing, in which a component is created layer by layer within a design space. There are many processes but the principle is identical. Material is only added where FEM analysis indicates it is theoretically needed. This often results in the creation of bionic shapes. With a valve block for example, the optimum way the medium is supposed to flow is considered and a shell is designed around it. This is in turn “printed”, creating the final shape.
Advantages of 3D printing: The weight (-78%) and volume (-2/3) of valve blocks are drastically reduced while functionality is improved, e.g. in terms of acoustic signatures.
Whether plastic or steel parts, any weldable material can theoretically be manufactured additively with the right process; the complexity of the part is more or less irrelevant. A small cross-functional group comprising application experts, buyers and a team of AM method and material experts has optimized and produced some initial parts with potentially exciting results. For example the strength of steel and polyamide AM components was proven on the jolting table. The team benefits from quicker component availability, high confidentiality and simple IP protection as parts can be produced in-house on the Group’s own industrial 3D printers for steel and plastic components at its TechCenter AM in Mülheim an der Ruhr. Among other things topologically optimized valve blocks have been printed in Mülheim. “We made weight savings of 78% and achieved further advantages, for example in terms of acoustics,” says Flemming Kock from Procurement Engineering at thyssenkrupp Marine Systems.
Stefan Lengowski from the Engineering unit at thyssenkrupp Marine Systems has been working with this technology for more than ten years. “The whole thing only makes sense if we are able to use AM components as functional parts on board. That’s why we are working on the qualification and certification process in collaboration with the TechCenter AM and external classification societies. We aim to complete the process in the second quarter of 2018 at the latest so that we can get it implemented as a fixed part of our data architecture.”
“We have already replaced non-critical and non-safety-relevant parts on our vessels with AM parts. We can already produce more than 30 polyamide parts at a price up to 85% lower than for machined components of the same quality. We see similar trends for steel parts in various sizes made using different processes,” Lengowski continues. And these figures do not even include the reduction in engineering documents as the printer can be activated directly from the 3D CAD system in neutral format. No drawings are needed.
Design, process & material know-how, and 3D printing capacities for plastic and metal at the thyssenkrupp Tech Center Additive Manufacturing in Mülheim an der Ruhr.
A Groupwide network exchanges the latest information on new applications, development tools and materials. It is not widely known but the Materials Services business area has already been gathering AM materials expertise for some years. Together with major equipment manufacturers new materials for industrial applications are also currently being tested and monitoring systems for quality assurance developed.