Problems that Critical Industries Can Solve With WAAM

Manufacturing supplies parts for some of the most critical industries in the world: aerospace, automotive, oil and gas, and heavy machinery. If these areas of business ceased to function efficiently, the world as we know it would grind to a halt.

Executives in these industries know how important their operations are. They also know that if their company does not deliver on its promises to its customers, those customers will look elsewhere for their parts.

These pressures are why these businesses value the work of FasTech LLC, an engineering firm that is capable of solving the following problems for them:

 

Slow Lead Times

“The biggest problem I’m seeing is people being unable to find the material and get parts made in a reasonable lead time,” explains Richie Barker, Chief Operating Officer at FasTech LLC. “Everything I hear seems to be that they can’t get material, can’t get forgings, can’t get castings. Everything is delayed. Something that would normally take three months is taking seven or eight now, and the prices are significantly jumping. Everything is costing more.”

He continues, “With FasTech, you don’t have to wait for material because we use standard off-the-shelf wire consumables, and you won’t have to use as much material, so it won’t take anywhere near as long to manufacture.”

 

Overly Expensive Operations

“In conventional manufacturing, you need a lot of space for material, there’s a lot of time and money involved in handling all of it, and there are additional costs for tool and machine wear, material waste and cost of recycling” Richie explains. “And the wear can be particularly bad if you’re regularly cutting down large blocks of material into smaller parts.”

“The WAAM process uses a lot less material and it is a much simpler method. All you need to do is buy your wire, which requires far less space to store, and then print your part and machine it. It’s as simple as that.”

Richie continues, “It’s the greater efficiency of 3D printing that produces so many savings. The material itself may be more expensive, but due to the fact that there are no material roughing requirements, the only finish machining process generates a fraction of the waste and can take as little as a quarter of the time. When you add all of this together, you are looking at a potential cost saving of around 50%.”

 

 

Inefficient Processes

“We’ve got a part we’re working on just now,” Richie says. “It only takes 20 hours for the customer to machine currently, but they then have to post-process it with another 50 or 60 hours of manual welding, re-machining, as they are adding other feature parts to the final component. We can print the whole part in one go. We take 40 hours to print and machine it, but all they have to do after that is drill some holes. We’ve been able to make the part faster and make it in a single piece when it would have typically required multiple parts.”

 

Wasted Material

“If a part has complex geometry and you make it using conventional machinery, you will need a big block of material which takes a long time to mill to the net shape and produces a lot of waste,” Richie explains. “This is where our WAAM 3D printing technology really comes into its own. We can print close to the near net shape, and therefore, use far less material to make it.”

 

Everyone in the manufacturing process knows that delays cost money, but it is easy to overlook a more subtle consequence of these hold-ups: enforced idleness for employees.

As Richie Barker, Chief Operating Officer at FasTech LLC, explains: “Many of our customers have critical projects that need to be running smoothly. If they can’t get the right parts at the right time, it could block potentially thousands of people from working. So it’s not just the knock-on cost of the part; it’s also about the implications of that part not being available. You could have people idle for many, many weeks as a result, and nobody looks at that.”

As Richie has identified, idle time is a significant problem in the manufacturing industry, and it does not get talked about enough. One of the most challenging aspects is that there are so many possible causes. Here are a few examples:

  • An office employee waiting for access to a printer.
  • An employee in any industry waiting for critical information required to proceed with a project.
  • A construction worker waiting for a colleague to finish using the digger they need for their task.
  • A technician waiting for the part they need to repair a piece of equipment.

 

 

Resolving Material Shortages

The principal cause of delays in the manufacturing industry is a shortage of material, which often takes ages to arrive after ordering. “The biggest problem I’m seeing is people being able to find the material and get parts made in a reasonable lead time,” Richie explains. “Everything seems to be can’t get material, can’t get forgings, can’t get castings. Everything is delayed. Something that would normally take three months is taking seven or eight now, and the prices are significantly jumping. Everything is costing more.”

When material shortages lead to delays stretching into multiple months, it is clearly a significant problem, and this is where FasTech can make the critical difference due to their solution.

“With us, you don’t have to wait for material because we use standard off-the-shelf wire consumable, and you won’t have to print as much, so it won’t take anywhere near as long to do,” Richie explains. “In an ideal situation, if a customer had a part that was relatively easy and required no development, you could print it in a day and machine it in a day. So that could cut a three-week lead time down to less than a week.”

It is incredible to think that something as seemingly simple as the choice of a state-of-the-art manufacturing process can make such a massive impact. However, when you think it through, the benefits of using something so readily-available are crystal clear and, importantly, long-lasting.

One company might use FasTech and feel grateful for the time saved on their current project. Then they might reverse back to the traditional manufacturing method. However, suppose they stop to consider the long-term impacts of a faster process. In that case, they will see that manufacturing parts by choosing an easy-to-acquire welding wire, using 3D WAAM metal printing technology, is a decision that will save them time and money over and over again as the years roll on, which makes a partnership with FasTech a wise choice in the long-term.

 

The phrase “time is money” has been around as long as humans have been doing business with one another, and there are few industries where the saying is more apt than manufacturing.

If a project takes longer than expected to complete, it becomes more expensive for everyone involved. It also often leads to the loss of future contracts, so it can be costly in the long term as well as the here and now.

Thankfully for their clients, FasTech have extremely technically experienced operators who know exactly how to maximize efficiency at every stage of the manufacturing process. This is their approach, according to Chief Operating Officer Richie Barker:

 

 

Identify Problems faced by Customers

1. “The biggest problem I’m seeing in the supply chain is people being unable to find the material and get parts made in a reasonable lead time,” Richie says. “Everything I hear seems to be can’t get material, can’t get forgings, can’t get castings. Everything is delayed. Something that would normally take three months is taking seven or eight now, and the prices are significantly jumping. Everything is costing more.”

2. “In conventional manufacturing, you need a lot of warehouse space for materials, there’s a lot of time and money involved in handling all of it, and there are additional costs for tool and machine wear and material waste too,” Richie explains. “And the tool wear cost can be excessively high if you’re regularly cutting down large blocks of material into smaller parts.”

3. “If a part has complex geometry and you make it using conventional machining practices, you will need a large block of material which adds a lot of non-value time to form into a shape and produces a lot of costly waste,” Richie explains.

 

 

Devise Clever Ways to Solve them

1. “The stock that we use – welding wire – is more readily available because it’s used every day,” Richie says. “Imagine, you have agreed with the client the size of the the material you are going to be using but, due to a common design change increasing the size of the part, it would be impossible to adapt the stock material (particularly if you want to make it bigger), but with the wire, we can be so flexible. We can adjust the geometry of the stock material immediately to the customer’s needs.”

2. “With WAAM, there is a lot less material involved, and it is a more streamlined process,” Richie explains. “You start by sourcing your wire, which requires far less space to store and much shorter leadtimes, and then simply print your part and machine it. It also produces a fraction of the waste and can take as little as a quarter of the time. So when you add all of this together, you are looking at a potential cost saving up to 50%.”

3. “This is where our 3D printing technology really comes into its own,” Richie enthuses. “We can print out the form and then use far less material to make it. It’s more cost-effective, a lot more efficient, and so much better in terms of sustainability.”

Ultimately, everything FasTech does as a company is geared towards improving the efficiency of metal printing and machining processes, and they do this by delivering customer success everyday.

 

Here at FasTech, we specialize in Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM). This is a highly-efficient method of manufacturing that utilizes state-of-the-art 3D printing to manufacture parts from welding wire.

According to Chief Operating Officer Richie Barker, some of the key advantages of WAAM are:

 

The Ability to Create the Shape you want…

The introduction of Additive Manufacturing brought a whole new level of precision to the industry, which enabled companies to create relatively complex shapes using accessible technologies.

At FasTech, we show our customers how to take a metal plate formed of welding wire and create near net geometry of the shape they want.

“We demonstrate via CAD, simulations, or even sometimes a hand-written sketch,” explains Richie. “We illustrate how they do it today and how we would do it instead.”

After printing the part, we put it through a 3D laser scan and measure it to ensure it meets the geometric requirements requested by the customer, before machining it to produce the final shape.

 

 

 

Using as Little Material as possible

Efficiency and cost savings are often closely related, particularly in manufacturing. And when it comes to WAAM, they definitely are.

This is because the process only deposits material where it has to, potentially saving vast amounts of metal for future projects.

“It’s the greater efficiency of 3D printing that produces so many savings,” explains Richie. “With this type of machining, we could use 44lb instead of 66lb block of material to make a finished part of 33lb while producing a fraction of the waste and taking as little as a quarter of the time (required by conventional methods). When you add all of this together, you are looking at a potential cost saving of around 50%.”

If you are using the most expensive metals, for example, titanium, these cost savings are even more critical, and they could save your company hundreds of thousands of Dollars over the years.

 

 

Use of Raw Material you can Easily Obtain

With WAAM, you are unlikely to face the costly and frustrating delays encountered by many companies in the manufacturing industry because it uses standard off-the-shelf wire consumable that is very easy to purchase.

“The biggest problem I’m seeing is people being unable to find the material and get parts made in a reasonable lead time,” explains Richie. “Everything I hear seems to be can’t get material, can’t get forgings, can’t get castings. Everything is delayed. Something that would normally take three months is taking seven or eight now, and the prices are significantly jumping. Everything is costing more.”

He continues, “With us, you don’t have to wait for material, and you won’t have to print as much, so it won’t take anywhere near as long to do. In an ideal situation, if a customer had a part that was relatively easy and required no development, you could print it in a day and machine it in a day. So that could cut a three-week lead time down to a week.”

At FasTech, we use wire made from carbon steel, stainless steel, nickel-based alloys, and titanium. We are looking to add aluminum, copper-zinc, and a different titanium grade.

 

 

Lower Storage and Equipment Costs

“In conventional manufacturing, you need a lot of storage space for the material, there’s a lot of time and money involved in handling all of it, and there are additional costs for tool and machine wear and material waste too,” Richie explains. “And the tool wear and cost can be particularly bad if you’re regularly cutting down large blocks of material into smaller parts.”

“With WAAM, there is a lot less material involved, and it is a much simpler process to control. All you need to do is buy your wire and shielding gas, which requires far less space to store, and then print your part and machine it. It’s as simple as that.”

 

 

Fewer steps in the process leading to Faster Manufacturing

Conventional manufacturing is complicated. You have to order your raw material, get a casting of the part you want and then machine it. Then you have to inspect it to make sure it is the right shape, purchase any additional components you want to add to it, and then weld these on.

Once you have done that, you need to put the part back into the machine, re-weld it, and add more components if necessary. After completing all these steps, you can finally start the post-process to produce the finished product.

From start to finish, that manufacturing chain can involve as many as 15 steps, and several of them have the potential to delay future actions, particularly when they involve the acquisition of additional material to weld onto your part.

WAAM changes all of that. It can make a massive difference to your manufacturing processes by stripping out the complexity and making everything as efficient as possible.

 

 

It achieves most of this through its ability to make complex parts using single pieces of material. This cuts out all the steps in conventional manufacturing that necessitate additional components and welding.

As Richie explains, “Previously, complex parts had to be constructed from multiple pieces because they weren’t easy to machine, forge or cast. But 3D printing has changed all of that by enabling us to machine parts as a single piece of material. Now, we print it, machine it, and then they drill some holes. It’s so much simpler.”

 

 

It is Better for the Environment

WAAM enables you to print out a shape and then use far less material to make it. This not only makes the manufacturing process more cost-effective, but it is also significant from an environmental perspective because you are using less material in the first place and not wasting as much as you go along. You will also use less electricity within the machining process, reducing your carbon footprint.

 

 

Manufacturing is a high-stakes business. If there are delays at any stage in any process, companies risk losing money and often face a whole host of other problems, particularly when it comes to employees.

“A lot of our customers have critical projects that need to be running smoothly,” explains Richie Barker, Chief Operating Officer at FasTech LLC. “If they can’t get parts delivered to the right quality and on time it could have a knock-on effect on the customer’s workforce”. So it’s not just about the cost of the part; it’s also about the implications of that part not being available. You could have people idle for up to ten weeks as a result, and nobody looks at that.”

Enforced employee idleness like this is known as a soft cost because the actual monetary price is challenging to quantify. However, there is no doubt that such inefficiency will lead to a loss for the business somewhere down the line, so it is essential to minimize disruptions to employee productivity wherever possible.

With this in mind, FasTech puts a premium on efficiency. Over the years, it has turned to streamline the manufacturing process into something of an art form by focusing on the following critical elements.

 

 

Readily Available Material

“The biggest problem I’m seeing is people being able to find the material and get parts made in a reasonable lead time,” Richie explains. “Everything I hear seems to be can’t get material, can’t get forgings, can’t get castings. Everything is delayed. Something that would normally take three months is taking seven or eight now, and the prices are significantly jumping. Everything is costing more.”

“With FasTech, you don’t have to wait for material because we use standard off-the-shelf wire consumable, and you won’t have to print as much, so it won’t take anywhere near as long to do.”

Richie continues, “The wire is much more readily available because of the solid partnerships Fastech has built with some of the world’s premium wire suppliers and mills. It’s hard to adjust the size of a lot of material (particularly if you want to make it bigger), but we can be so flexible with the wire. We can adjust the geometry of the parts very quickly to a customer’s needs using CAD.”

 

 

Processes That Require Less Material And Produce Less Waste

FasTech makes products using wire arc additive manufacturing (WAAM), which has been widely credited with increasing efficiency within the industry by reducing the amount of material required for each creation, improving lead times, and cutting down on the waste generated within the manufacturing process.

“When a customer comes to us with a problem, we give them options,” Richie explains. “We show them how we could make a printed part instead of a machined part using our technology, and we highlight the net reduction in material and waste.”

“Most of all, we demonstrate the difference it will make to the customer if they move to WAAM. We show them how we could take a plate and create the geometry of the near-net-shape part they want. We tell them about the benefits in terms of cost and lead time.”

Richie continues, “Then we demonstrate via CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) simulations , or even sometimes just a hand-written sketch. We illustrate how they do it today and how we would do it instead.”

The critical detail here is the ability of WAAM to produce parts using less source material. For example, because it can create something near to the net shape, this type of manufacturing can often make a 15kg (33lb) part using 20kg (44lb) of material instead of 30kg (66lb).

However, the advantages do not end there, as Richie explains: “In conventional manufacturing, you need a lot of space for material, there’s a lot of time and money involved in handling all of it, and there are additional costs for tool and machine wear and material waste too. And the wear can be particularly bad if you’re regularly cutting down large blocks of material into smaller parts.”

“With WAAM, there is a lot less material involved, and it is a much simpler process. All you need to do is buy your wire, which requires far less space to store, and then print your part and machine it. It’s as simple as that.”

 

 

Greater efficiency With 3D Printing

“We’ve got a part we’re working on just now,” Richie says. “It only takes 20 hours for the customer to machine currently, but they then have to post-process it with another 50 or 60 hours of manual welding, re-machining, and adding other parts. We take 40 hours to print and machine it, but all they have to do after that is drill some holes. We’ve been able to make the part faster and make it in a single piece. In this way, we can take parts that would typically be multi-piece and make them a single piece.”

3D printing has enabled manufacturers to construct complex parts from a single piece of material. It can make complex shapes using a single plate where previously multiple pieces would be required to achieve the same geometry.

“You could have something that currently takes up to 15 steps,” Richie explains. “These include: order raw material, get your casting, machine it, inspect it, purchase additional components, weld them on, put it back in the machine, re-weld it, add more components, and then post-process it. Now, we print it, machine it, and then they drill some holes. It’s so much simpler.”

In summary, it is the greater efficiency of 3D printing that produces so many savings. The material itself is more expensive, but the machining produces a fraction of the waste and can take as little as a quarter of the time. When you add all of this together, you are looking at a potential cost saving of around 50%.

And it’s also great from an environmental perspective because you are using less material in the first place and not wasting as much as you go along, which means you could use less electricity and reduce your carbon footprint.