Additive manufacturing (AM) is the latest topic surging through the materials industry. Certain key enabling technologies have been predicted to usher in the 4th industrial revolution, also known as Industry 4.0.
Digitalisation is now occurring in most industrial processes, for example, the internet of things, big data and of course, additive manufacturing.
It has been predicted that AM could grow to a $250 billion industry by 2025. Of course, with new opportunities occurring in manufacturing, becoming competitive in this area requires innovation. And it’s not only the new kids on the block that are rising to the challenge, but also many well-established companies.
What, then, is the approach of such players when extending their influence to the quickly growing additive manufacturing sector?
The additive manufacturing value chain
The value chain for the AM industry encompasses players involved in supplying materials, manufacturing printers, developing software for design and printing and providing AM services. Thus, the possibilities for those entering the space are very broad, from large firms able to invest in their own AM equipment to smaller manufacturers or development teams taking advantage of companies providing 3D printing services.
Materials supply for additive manufacturing
For all these cases, no matter the technology, having access to the highest quality materials is a crucial factor in being able to achieve high-quality printed components.
Of the materials most in demand for additive manufacturing, metals are perhaps the most important. At Matmatch, we see the steel is one of the most in-demand materials across multiple industries, with a wide variety of other metals coming close behind.
An established steel producer moving towards additive manufacturing
It’s no surprise to learn then, that steel and many other metals are in high demand for additive manufacturing.
Deutsche Edelstahlwerke (DEW), one of the world’s leading producers of special steel long products and a part of the Swiss Steel Group, has recognised this. Due to their know-how in metal production for build-up welding, DEW is quickly extending its metal powder product range for additive manufacturing. They brand this range “Printdur” and it includes iron-, nickel- and cobalt-based alloys.
Daniel Kipp of Deutsche Edelstahlwerke explains why the company is interested in entering the AM sector: “AM provides a lot of opportunities for development, such as transfering of standard materials from the long steel production to printable metal powders, designing new materials, and improved parts.” He highlights how they are seeing demand from “new markets interested in our metal powders.”
The industries demanding AM steel components
Kipp says, “Beside aviation and medical applications, there are many industries which are interested in AM and are doing research. For us, as a known powder producer, there are many promising or interesting options to intensify business with several industries. One major challenge for the future of AM is certainly the automotive industry because of the high volume of parts.”
AM is providing exciting R&D challenges for metal manufacturers
Of course, with any foray into a new market, there are challenges that must be addressed. A crucial aspect of any steel is its various material properties, which are usually tailored using composition as well as mechanical and heat treatment. Deutsche Edelstahlwerke strives for the highest quality through constant research and development activities. Aside from new materials, Kipp explains how “On the one hand we are focusing on the standard materials and on the other hand we’re doing research for new materials.”
Standardisation is also an issue. He adds that “a lot of companies are doing research on AM parts. This means that we are faced with many requirements and demands accompanied by little standardisation of materials.” This is an issue which will, no doubt, be resolved as the industry matures.
Explore metal powders for additive manufacturing by DEW Stahl:
- Printdur® Ni625 (2.4856, Alloy 625) – nickel chrome alloy
Powderfort(1.2709) – stainless steel
- Printdur® 4404 (1.4404, 316 L) – stainless steel
- Printdur® 4548 (1.4548, 17-4 PH) – stainless steel
- Printdur® Ni625
LFe(2.4856, Alloy 625) – nickel chrome alloy
- Printdur® 2343 (1.2343) – stainless steel
- Printdur® 2344 (1.2344) – stainless steel
- Printdur® CoCrF75 (ASTM F75) – cobalt alloy
- Printdur® 4545 (1.4545, 15-5 PH) – stainless steel
The future for established metal producers in additive manufacturing
Steel and other metal producers are taking the growth of the AM sector very seriously. Kipp says that “We are convinced that 3D printing will become an important part of the steel industry and processing chain.”
Established materials producers are clearly showing that staying dynamic and innovative is key to take advantage of emerging markets. The advent of Industry 4.0 will favour those who are acutely aware of this and can take advantage of the new digital services and manufacturing technologies that are making the 4th industrial revolution possible.
Visit the Deutsche Edelstahlwerke supplier page on