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3D printing – adding up to a perfect partner for manufacturing

A global foundry equipment supply company is exploring additive manufacturing (AM) technology as a solution to complex casting design features for the ever more bespoke equipment it manufactures for customers around the world. Offering a wide range of manipulators, grinders, knock off hammers and breakers, Clansman Dynamics has built a global reputation for the design and supply of robust and reliable equipment. There are, however, fewer and fewer ‘off the shelf’ machines nowadays, with equipment increasingly built to match the customer’s exact specifications.

Often meaning the need for very specific functionality, size, capabilities etc., this has resulted in a necessity to invest in the latest manufacturing techniques to help to push the design and functionality boundaries. This in turn will unlock options to further develop bespoke equipment for foundries and manufacturers.Having investigated the available tools to assist and amplify product development, Clansman considered additive manufacturing (3D printing) as a viable option for some of the components that are incorporated into the company’s equipment. They are tapping into the expertise of a company based locally to them, to work in partnership to integrate AM into their design process for custom-made components destined to be housed in equipment that is required to withstand the harshest of environments.

“We now have some fairly complicated castings that we have to machine,” says managing director Sandy MacDonald. “We need to rethink how we make the shape. Additive manufacturing is potentially of benefit to us as it offers an entirely different approach to the design process.”

Clansman is working in partnership with Glenalmond Technologies, a company which has developed an AM process based on welding, thus enabling the transition of two different metals into one piece – titanium, aluminium, super alloys of Inconel or steel. MacDonald continues: “This will enable us to vary mechanical and material properties within a single component and do things otherwise thought to be impossible. This makes me think that AM is indeed more of a collaborator than a competitor for the metal casting industry. This technique also offers the capabilities to add features on to an existing cast component or to repair a casting.”

Design flexibility

The catalyst for the investment was a project that required new castings to be developed – a perfect opportunity to consider a flexible method of design and prototype production. Clansman’s engineering manager Chris McCrory is confident that the technology will open up wider capabilities in the design and construction of Clansman equipment in the future. CEO of Glenalmond Technologies, Jamie Mincher, offers an insight into the capabilities: “The Glenalmond Technologies developed process is called rapid additive manufacturing (RAM). It is based on a direct energy deposition wire fed process whereby conventional welding processes are utilised in a novel way to create a large-scale rapid deposition 3D printing capability for metal components.

“We are working together with Clansman to look at how to leverage this technology for the production of parts which may have been conventionally cast as an alternative, as well as for the adaptation of cast parts into bespoke shapes and orientations.”

After witnessing the technology at GIFA in 2019, Clansman opted to learn some of the capabilities of the process, on a more desktop scale, by investing in an Ultimaker S5 machine with a 330mm x 240mm x 300mm print bed. It is considered to be a powerful, reliable and versatile machine, with both a glass and aluminium plate to facilitate consistent surface finish, touchscreen navigation and an ability to be run and monitored from a desktop and App. The flexibility means it promises to deliver without the need for in-depth knowledge and extensive training. “We can fully appreciate the freedom we now have with design,” Chris McCrory told Foundry Trade Journal. “We are just at the start of this, but we can already see that we can create prototypes for certain parts such as control arms for our manipulators.” McCrory said its introduction to the development laboratory has been seamless. “From receiving the machine, we were printing within 90 minutes,” he said. “It’s being used for various development projects we have and the software offers a very accurate assessment of time, so we know exactly when the jobs are complete.”

Although the integration into the working routine has been harmonious, MacDonald said it is leading to a new-found understanding of design vocabulary, which has been eased by the partnership with Glenalmond. “This is a purely technical partnership, but it means that we are able to move into this technology with greater ease,” he enthuses. There are a number of parts currently under review at Clansman with the hope that the first parts will be produced and put in to service in the near future. Mincher says this is only the beginning: “There has been a lot of talk about ‘next day transition’, but it takes years to develop technology; additive manufacturing is not a be all and end all. Traditional casting will continue. However, additive manufacturing does offer a solution for ‘bespoke’, in terms of adding and taking away features. Of course it is not going to compete with high volume casting production, certainly not in our lifetimes. It is a hybrid option though and it might offer an ability for companies to break into new markets.

“There is an exciting future for the use of 3D printing in large scale parts which are not currently possible to produce via other processes, as well as a variety of hybrid approaches to take cast parts and add on features for far greater flexibility of manufacture. Clansman and Glenalmond are really excited about the possibilities for the future.”

Green credentials

Built for longevity and tailored specifically for individual customer needs, Clansman’s manipulator and grinder equipment is in use in foundries and manufacturing facilities around the world. The company is conscious of the need to offer cost-effective solutions, whilst maintaining an important environmental commitment. Whilst this is just the first step on a learning journey for Clansman, MacDonald says he is confident that the ultimate goal of design freedom will be coupled with energy and environmental savings in the future. “In the long term we will be looking at making our machines lighter, stronger and even more reliable by not being constricted by traditional methods of manufacturing. With steel costs increasing by 60 per cent recently, the possibility of a reduction in weight in the future means a win/win for us and the customer. Alternatives such as carbon fibre impregnated material are getting close to the effective strength of steel, so they offer a distinct possibility for some of our components.

“We are all looking to reduce our carbon footprints and anything that will save energy must be considered beneficial.”

Contact: Sandy MacDonald, Clansman Dynamics, Tel: +44 (0) 1355 579 900, email: [email protected] web: www.clansmandynamics.com

RAM Benefits to user

  • Reduced material wastage
    Printed parts ‘near net shape’, reducing both wasted material and machining times.
  • Cost reductions
    Less material used, less paid for.
    No tooling required for production of parts, built from CAD Model.
  • Simplified supply chain
    One stop shop or virtual warehouse.
  • No part stocking decisions, all parts graded by material which becomes standard stock.