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The Advantages of Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing

The Advantages of Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing

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.