Lowering Barriers to AM Integration

Renishaw's Solutions Center Network will offer "incubator cells" to help manufacturers learn about AM technology.


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There are barriers to AM as a series production process. One is confidence that the process that is predictable and consistent. Getting to this confidence requires an understanding of the secondary processes that help ensure consistent parts, including finishing, measurement and control. Meanwhile, it has been noted that only 10 percent of teh overall cost of an AM part is materials, and that the most significant source of expense is frequently design and engineering. The first step to easing all of these burdens is to teach new and existing AM users how to apply AM thinking to processing and design. This is where Renishaw steps in with its new "Solutions Center" concept. While at EMO last month, I sat down with Marc Saunders, Renishaw’s director of global solutions centers to find out what the company has in store.

Renishaw’s Solutions Center Network will serve as a supported learning center for all things AM by helping potential and current users uncover AM’s possibilities, identify appropriate applications, learn best practices and examine the investment case. Each Center provides a secure development environment and is focused on four main aspects of AM: prototyping, remanufacturing, part consolidation and design optimization. Secure and supported access to every step of the AM process is achieved within an “incubator cell” staffed with an operator and applications engineer to consult with customers on concepts, assist with benchmarking part designs and test out processes.

Each Center also offers dedicated engineering and technician expertise in areas including inspection via a CMM with a five-axis head, machining with a five-axis CNC to finish complex components, and pre-production to demonstrate process capability. Resources also include private offices in which to collaborate; a materials lab for QA analysis; finishing methods for support removal, polishing and surface treatment; a heat treatment room; and powder management via sieving and filter replacement.

Customers begin by paying for time in the cell, but the end game in any given case is to develop a complete process to manufacture production parts. Over the next year, 10 solution centers will open, with three in North America (Chicago, Dallas and Toronto) and the rest throughout the UK, Europe, India and China.