Prototypes Used in Production
Examples of prototypes that were used in production as a means of testing the ability to scale the capability into larger manufacturing processes include a heat exchanger for an automotive customer and denture frameworks for a health care professional services customer.
CASE STUDY #1
EXCHANGING METAL 3D PRINTING SOLUTIONS AT HIETA
- HiETA is tech company that develops metal AM methods to produce complex, light-weight structures for various types of heat-management applications.
- Delta Motorsports, a UK based company, and a vehicle integrator was an important part of the collaboration between HiETA and Renishaw.
- HiETA is moving metal additive manufacturing (AM) from prototype manufacture into commercial production with its specialist range of heat exchangers. The company has recently been able to reduce both manufacturing span and, therefore production costs, dramatically.
- Heat exchangers are often made up from thin sheets of material that are welded together. The complex designs make production both difficult and time-consuming, while the welding process adds to the weight of the part.
The core challenges of the project are given below.
- To ensure that AM could effectively create sufficiently thin walls of the requisite quality.
- To produce a complete heat exchanger with the complexity of a typical component.
- To move the process from the manufacture of samples and prototypes into low-volume production using the knowledge and experience gained in the project.
Two significant parts contributed to the system strength and project objectives.
- A cuboid heat exchanger (recuperator) to be used as a range- extender for electric vehicles.
- Since more complex shapes can improve performance and cycle efficiency, and reduce both manufacturing and packaging costs, the second part was an annular recuperator which could be coiled around other components of the system with integrated manifolds that lead to a more compact system.
- Inconel - nickel-chromium-based superalloys, well-suited for service in extreme environments subjected to pressure and heat.
- The dimensions of the desired project are 2425 x 2252 px.
- Developed detailed parameter sets to a heat exchanger with leak-free thin walls in Inconel down to thicknesses of 150 microns.
- Produced samples using a variety of settings at two different locations.
- Resulting samples were heat treated and then characterized.
- The first attempt at making a complete product generated an active component but resulted in a build time of seventeen days.
- Following enhancements to the hardware and software, along with optimization of the process parameters, this was reduced to eighty hours.
- This performance was achieved with a weight and volume approximately 30% lower than an equivalent part made by conventional methods.
- Now that they are in production, they are regularly producing components that are usually around 40% lighter and smaller by volume than anything else on the market.
- The lead project engineer reported that the companies are now attempting a production cycle for manufacturing commercial application parts and equipment for engineers and customers with different requirement sets.
CASE STUDY #2
PROSLAB ENSURES ABSOLUTE ACCURACY WITH ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING
- Proslab, a leading Australian dental laboratory designed dentures in CAD using patient measurements. The dentures were printed in resin, then using traditional lost-wax casting methodology, were built in cobalt chrome.
- Proslab used the lost-wax casting technique, starting with the creation of CAD design of the denture. This model was then printed in resin and from there, used to make the investment mold. Before being cut and polished, the product will be de- invested and trimmed and finally cast.
- During the process, the accuracy of the fitting was negatively affected due to the uncontrolled temperature changes, diverse cross sections, and unfinished casting or gas porosity.
- The frameworks were often reworked after being used by the dentists since it is challenging to be accurate while working with lost-wax casting. 
- Proslab decided to fully digitize its manufacturing process using additive manufacturing. To demonstrate the accuracy of the process, their vendor used the CAD designs from Australia and manufactured sample parts at its Healthcare Centre of Excellence in the UK.
- Because the dental production facility ran daily, there was extensive data to support Proslab’s prototype project.
- After adopting the production model they tested, Proslab now produces removable partial dentures directly from a CAD file, eliminating the resin casting step.
MATERIAL AND PRODUCTION PROCESS
- “Frameworks are built in 40-micron layers of CE marked cobalt chrome powder and built by laser powder bed fusion (PBF), using a high-powered ytterbium fibre laser.”
- Proslab is now able to produce the most accurate frameworks possible by printing directly from a CAD file.
- The result was a 100% reduction in the number of in-house remakes due to error.
- Because they can ensure a perfect fit, their service and reputation have significantly improved.
- They produce frames daily and now regularly save an entire day in processing and produce better quality removable partial dentures in half the time.