TWI has been researching and developing arc-based additive manufacturing (AM) – also known as 3D printing with weld, or wire and arc additive manufacturing – since 1990.
We are uniquely placed to use our expertise and many decades of experience in welding, materials, testing and validation technology and modelling to provide you with full lifecycle support for potential arc-based AM applications.
We have three robotic arc-based AM systems with integrated multi-axis part manipulators and state-of-the-art GMAW and TIG power sources dedicated to AM development and training.
What is arc-based additive manufacturing?
Arc-based AM is the use of arc welding power sources and manipulators to build 3D shapes. The part is built up by arc deposition, most commonly using wire as a material source, following a predetermined path to create a shaped layer of metal.
Because arc welding can operate in any orientation, it is possible to create very complex 3D parts. Arc-based AM is most commonly performed using robotic welding equipment, so the size of the part that can be built is limited only by the reach of the robot.
Benefits of arc-based additive manufacturing
TWI’s arc-based AM services can reduce your costs and lead times compared to conventional manufacturing methods:
- Eliminate the need for costly casting and forging dies – manufacture the near-net-shape preform from CAD data
- Reduce material wastage through improvements to material utilisation ratio (buy-to-fly); machine from near-net-shape parts, not large billets
- Reduce material consumption by taking advantage of AM to create parts designed for function, not restricted to compatibility with conventional manufacturing methods
- Manufacture small numbers of legacy and spare parts in a cost-effective manner
- Optimise materials and use graded or dissimilar materials within a single component to tailor the performance of assemblies to meet specific requirements.
We can adapt arc-based AM for your needs, prioritising either deposition rate or resolution depending on the application. In this way we can deposit features as narrow as 1.5mm very accurately, or configure the process to deposit as much as 10kg of material per hour with a single heat source.
Where can arc-based additive manufacturing be used?
Arc-based AM can manufacture near-net-shape preforms ranging in size from a few tens of millimetres to metre-plus scale. The technology is under development for applications in the aerospace, power generation, oil and gas, civil engineering and land transport sectors, but the design freedoms and multitude of materials that can be deposited mean arc-based AM can potentially be used anywhere that large components are needed.
Contact us to find out how your business can benefit from this technology.