Additive Industries is a manufacturer of metal 3D printers. Their flagship printer, the MetalFABG2, is the most automated metal printer on the market.
The company also generates software and material parameter sets to complement its printer sales and supports its customers with a range of consultancy and training offering for workforce development.
Additive Industries has three locations, its headquarters in Eindhoven (The Netherlands) and two service and development locations at Bristol (UK) and Camarillo (USA).
Interview with Kartik Rao, Strategic Marketing Director at Additive Industries.
Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the company?
Kartik Rao: Additive Industries is focused on growing its installed base of printers, which today is equally distributed in the US and EU, and is working on developing other territories with its channel partners in other locations where additive manufacturing is beginning to be adopted.
In terms of adoption by industry, about 30% of our installed base is for the space industry. They have been the early adopters of the additive manufacturing technology, as it provides the freedom of design and manufacturing flexibility to create the most functionally disruptive parts. We have recently been receiving much more attention from the automotive industry as well, this market is going through its most dramatic transformation since the introduction of the model-T. This transformation is driving the automotive industry to be more responsive and innovative to market demands and trends, such as electric drive trains, customization and autonomy.
E.E: What’s the news about new products?
K.R: Nearly two years ago, we released the second generation of our flagship MetalFAB printer, the MetalFABG2. Over the last year, we have introduced hardware and software upgrades for this printer which has driven up productivity and quality to keep our customers in a position of cost and quality leadership. Every single one of these upgrades is capable of being field-installed without significant disruption.
Some examples of these new upgrades, are an improved Filter system, which may seem an insignificant change. However, it enables our users to nearly double their gas flow in the printer, which in turn allows them to run the printer faster. Faster processing times, reduce the cost per part during production, meaning our customers get to keep improving their cost position on their product portfolio.
Another recent introduction has been the release of a hardware and software tool set that enables the fast calibration and verification of the laser properties. Our printer is a quad-laser printer, each of these lasers is a full field laser meaning it can reach every single part of the powder bed. Calibrating the lasers in standard market printers takes at a minimum a day and sometimes to get the re-calibration data back can take a period of weeks. This is expensive downtime, and the Additive Industries solution enables the printer operator to run these tests on their own in a matter of minutes.
E.E: What are the ranges of products?
K.R: Our flagship printer is the MetalFAB which is completely modular. We can help our customers pick the right modular set-up to suit their needs, whether it be prototyping or series production of parts. And if the customer anticipates beginning with prototyping and then scaling up to production, we can identify the starting configuration and the modules required for further investment to scale up to full series production.
For customers working on prototyping, material and process development, or who don’t wish to use any automation at all, we have the MetalFABG2 Core.
Scaling from the Core to the Automation configuration is straightforward as it involves the addition of two more modules which can be field-installed. The Automation configuration enables customers to operate autonomously as the printer can automate the changeovers of builds and run back-to-back for two prints.
To overcome the limitation of having only two prints go back-to-back, we have a third configuration, called Continuous Production. This enables customers to run up to eight back-to-back builds without human intervention.
E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active?
K.R: We see additive manufacturing being adopted in almost every industry that requires physical manufacturing.
The early adopters have been space and medical, where metal AM is an accepted production method.
The automotive industry began by adopting metal AM for prototyping, but we now see examples of production use for tooling and low-volume cars. The European automotive industry has adopted AM faster than it’s American competitors, but we see evidence of a change in the past year.
E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?
K.R: The Metal AM industry has been growing between 25-35%, year over year for the past few years since Covid. However, we do see a slowdown in capital equipment budgets in 2023 due to rising interest rates and a general cooling of the manufacturing industry. We do expect this to be temporary and that the overall trend for metal AM is very positive, being driven by increased adoption by various industries.
E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed?
K.R: Within metal additive manufacturing, we see a rise in different additive technologies. Binder jetting, directed energy deposition or WAAM, as well as electron beam powder bed fusion are all rising in maturity. Each of these new additive technologies do not threated the laser based powder bed fusion market, but do offer complementary technologies based on size and materials for different parts.
E.E: What estimations do you have for 2023?
K.R: The metal AM industry is likely to have grown, but probably with the lower overall growth compared to the last 2-3 years. We also see a rising demand for metal AM in new industries where there is a continuing push to onshore manufacturing back into the US and EU. This will enable the industry to continue pushing for growth in 2024 and beyond.
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