- Worldwide market for all 3D printing sectors in 2016: about $6.1 billion USD
- Average annual growth rate: 20%
Compared to traditional construction methods, 3D printing is unbelievably fast. Because of this, additive manufacturing has the greatest added value for developing new products and in small batch production. Using agile rapid prototyping, the process of building a prototype takes a mere fraction of the time needed for subtractive manufacturing, which can often take several weeks or months. Subtractive techniques will most likely continue to be relied upon for large-scale production in the future. Experts from the automotive industry say there probably won’t be a 3D printed car for another twenty years, but even today a good 3,000 parts in a prototype may originate from a 3D printer.
Fast innovation is becoming increasingly important. “This is also the case in established industries and for applications such as carbon-based parts for distillation equipment in the chemical sector. 3D printing helps us continually accelerate the development of new solutions, together with our customers.
Oswin Öttinger, Head of New Technologies in Central Innovation
At the same time, additive manufacturing is also a particularly efficient process. Only as much material as is needed for the final product is actually used to print it. Large quantities of leftover shavings or chips, such as the byproducts of grinding, drilling and milling in subtractive manufacturing, are virtually eliminated. In addition to conserving resources, over the long term this also results in more cost-efficient operations.
Heat exchangers made of specialty graphite materials or ceramics
Heat exchangers are indispensible for energy efficient processes of heat recovery, for example in power engineering or combustion and heating technology, not to mention in chemical industry processes. They ensure that the thermal energy of flowing substances such as water, air, gases or working materials can be transferred to other material flows. In detail, such a heat exchanger is often made up of a plethora of individual plates or pipes with a corresponding sealing design. With 3D printing, various components in an assembly can be combined and thus be manufactured in a single operation – more efficient and simplified.
Geometries can be created with 3D printing that are either impossible or much more difficult to produce with subtractive manufacturing. One example is so-called pump impellers, specially shaped pump rotors made of ceramic that are used in the chemical industry to pump particular, often aggressive substances. They increase the pumping capacity and ensure durability because of their special shape. Additional examples from SGL Carbon currently in testing include specially shaped column internals, static mixer components and complex catalyst supports with large surface areas.
What is more, 3D printing also offers the opportunity to very easily combine several materials in the form of mixtures, thereby creating entirely new property profiles. It is an approach that SGL Carbon is taking with its partner ExOne, using binder jetting techniques. Following the actual printing, components can be further enhanced using impregnation and infiltration processes as well as coating techniques. Consequently, component properties can be further optimized specific to their application, and all of this starting at batch size 1.
Additive manufacturing is an excellent solution facilitating increased flexibility. One example is design programs that customers can use to design their own components, something employees at SGL Carbon are already experimenting with.