The Need for Certification Schemes in Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing, which is the process by which a material is added layer by layer to produce a 3D part or component, has been dubbed the next ‘industrial revolution’ in the manufacturing industry. Here we examine why there is the need for certification schemes in manufacturing.

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Additive manufacturing has great benefits for the marine industry

Additive manufacturing can create complex parts with an incredibly high level of precision and control, resulting in the reduction of material usage, weight, assembly, and maintenance.

Despite this, additive manufacturing, also called 3D printing, is still a relatively new type of manufacturing for many industries, especially in the energy and marine sectors. With this in mind, certain checks must be in place to ensure that high levels of quality, safety and reliability are maintained, especially as more and more industries adopt the manufacturing process. We examine below why there is the need for certification schemes in manufacturing.

The rising popularity of additive manufacturing

The additive manufacturing market is expected to grow by 390% by 2023, and it will have a large impact in industries such as oil and gas. Its rising popularity has led to a wave of new printing technologies and companies entering the market, resulting in many new opportunities for end users. However, the rate at which these new opportunities are arising could mean that they are comprising on quality and safety standards. There is simply no standardised way at the moment of proving that a product is safe.

Due to this, some industries have been slow on the uptake of incorporating additive manufacturing processes into their own systems. While there may be varying reasons for industries such as the energy sector to be more cautious about using additive manufacturing, it seems that one reason is due to the lack of a commonly accepted certification guideline.

Why do we need new guidelines for additive manufacturing?

A different set of guidelines may help to ease many people’s concerns with additive manufacturing. New technology and new processes require new guidelines to match, and existing guidelines simply cannot be applied to additive manufacturing, especially when it comes to offshore products. While the additive manufacturing of metal closely replicates the welding process, it is done at a micro-scale level. Therefore the processes, control systems, and certifications that are applied to welding do not directly apply to additive manufacturing.

Additive manufacturing involves a different process, such as by using pre-heated parts, which results in a differing set of requirements and final design. As such, the replacement of current components with newer designs may create inaccessible internal features. This differing level of manufacturing, and the results which it produces, leads to a need for an alternative set of certification schemes for additive manufacturing. These certification schemes can also act as a balancing standard for quality and safety for the wave of new technologies and companies that we see emerge onto the market.

Additive manufacturing is able to create a wide range of different products and objects

Additive manufacturing is able to create a wide range of different products and objects

How does additive manufacturing differ from normal methods?

While additive manufacturing does draw similarities from the welding process and while parts that have been additively manufactured display a similar strength to those that have been manufactured by standard methods, ductility and fatigue levels between the two are very different. Therefore, depending upon the material and the application, parts that have been produced through additive manufacturing may not pass current safety standards and certifications.

When these parts are going to be used in industries such as energy, where products are likely to be used for safety-critical applications in much harsher environmental surroundings, it is paramount that all parts are deemed safe. Therefore, having a separate set of certifications will provide end users with the confidence that they need.

What certification schemes are currently on the market?

That being said, there are currently some existing certification guidelines on the market that help in providing confidence to manufactures and end-users that parts are safe, reliable and robust. Certification schemes such as the Lloyd’s Register’s Additive Manufacturing Product Scheme have clients demonstrate that their parts meet existing manufacturing methods and standards using their Guidance Notes for Additive Manufacturing of Metallic Parts. Companies that pass these tests are awarded an LR certification, meaning end-users know that whatever parts they order are safe.

As Lloyd’s Register is one of the leading quality, safety and compliance consultants on the market, their safety kite mark should bring a new wave of confidence to the additive manufacturing process. This, in turn, should lead to industries such as the energy sector, who have so far been slow to adopt the process, now looking to incorporate it into their own systems.

Once global certification schemes such as these are accepted on a wider basis, it will help to commercialise the ‘next revolution’ in manufacturing, resulting in cost savings and energy gains. Additive manufacturing offers faster lead times, greater precision, and less material waste than normal methods, and so is the next logical step for any industry that uses manufacturing processes.

Contact SPI Lasers to Discuss Additive Manufacturing

If you’re interested in finding out more about the additive manufacturing process, and how SPI Lasers can apply this to your business, click here or feel free to get in contact with us on +44(0)1489 779 696, or by email sales@spilasers.com.

 

Image Credit: Matthew Wheeler and Startacus

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