Wire Additive Manufacturing: a powerful option for Australia's advanced manufacturing landscape

Metal additive manufacturing encompasses various techniques for creating complex 3D objects layer-by-layer from digital models. Generally speaking, metal AM touts many benefits, including less manufacturing time, lower material waste and, in some cases, stronger material properties than traditional manufacturing processes.

The landscape of metal additive manufacturing is constantly evolving for advanced manufacturers in Australia, particularly those serving industries like Defence, Oil and Gas, and Maritime Aerospace and Energy. While techniques like Laser Bed Powder Fusion (LPBF) and Cold Spray have garnered significant attention, Wire Additive Manufacturing (WAM®) offers a compelling alternative, especially when considering large-scale applications. The question often posed to industry specialists is, “How does one know which metal additive manufacturing process is best suited to their workshop needs?”

Under ASTM/ISO 52900, there are currently over 18 processes categorised into seven core metal AM techniques; without technology education, the average manufacturer can be forgiven for confusion regarding the process and technique suitable for their specific application.

Generally speaking, a majority of Metal AM processes are best applied to smaller componentry or metal parts with a footprint well under 0.5 cubic metres. It has only been in the last few years that the metal AM industry has seen original equipment manufacturers produce commercially ready Metal AM systems capable of one cubic metre or larger.

Add in the complexity regarding critical parts, which require adherence to specific industry manufacturing standards; the integration of new and emerging technologies for advanced manufacturers—despite the various benefits these technologies offer—becomes a convoluted process.

The first step in solving this problem is to understand the strengths and limitations of each metal AM technique; manufacturers can then choose the most suitable process for their specific needs, considering factors like part size, complexity, material properties, and desired functionality.

For advanced manufacturers producing parts that are over 1 m or larger, AML3D’s ARCEMY® system is a metal AM Powerhouse. The AM system uses a patented Wire Additive Manufacturing (WAM®) technology and proprietary software WAMSoft® and AMLSoft™.

AML3D, an Australian company headquartered in Australia, has emerged as a global leader in WAM® technology with its ARCEMY® system. ARCEMY® combines state-of-the-art robotics, welding expertise, and metallurgical knowledge into a user-friendly platform. While using a patented Wire Additive Manufacturing process, the system’s core lies in its proprietary software suite:

  • WAMSoft®: This software acts as the path-planning brain of ARCEMY®. WAMSoft® takes the user’s 3D model and generates optimised toolpaths for the welding head, ensuring precise material deposition and efficient build times.
  • AMLSoft™: Considered the operating system of ARCEMY®, AMLSoft™ empowers users to manage various critical parameters during the WAM® process. This includes material selection, wire feed rate, gas flow, and interpass temperatures, allowing for fine-tuning of the build for optimal results.

Following a robust part-build methodology or build plan, AM system operators employ an electric arc to weld a certified metal wire feedstock, creating the object layer upon layer. The technology can be used to print simple to complex topologies with multi-stage and multi-step processing; it can, in some cases, also complement traditional methods with a hybrid manufacturing approach. WAM® boasts several key advantages compared to conventional manufacturing methods:

  • Large-Scale Manufacturing: WAM® excels at creating significantly larger parts. This makes it ideal for applications in industries like Shipbuilding, Oil and Gas, and even Defence, where large, robust components are crucial, and delivery deadlines can be delayed using casting methods.
  • Reduced Lead Times: WAM® users experience reduced manufacturing times for part production, which is digitally driven. The CAD to near-to-demand, near-net metal 3D print process creates shorter production cycles, saves on inventory, and decreases supply chain bottom-line costs.
  • Material Efficiency: WAM® utilises a continuous wire feed, minimising material waste compared to traditional manufacturing, translating to cost savings and a reduced environmental impact.
  • Material Versatility: WAM® offers compatibility with a broader range of metal alloys compared to other additive manufacturing technologies, allowing for the creation of parts with specific mechanical properties tailored to demanding environments. AML3D has tested over 25 certified wire feedstocks, with datasheets currently available for materials ranging from aluminium, titanium, copper alloys, nickel alloys and a range of steels.

Australian advanced manufacturers, particularly those servicing sectors like Defence and Oil and Gas, stand to gain significant advantages by adopting WAM® technology:

  • Domestic Capabilities: Often referred to as Sovereign Manufacturing Capability, WAM® offers an opportunity to develop large-scale metal additive manufacturing capabilities within Australia, reducing reliance on overseas suppliers and fostering technological independence.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: WAM®’s material efficiency and suitability for a broader range of materials can lead to cost savings in production compared to traditional methods.
  • Design Flexibility: WAM®’s ability to create complex geometries opens doors for innovative and lightweight designs, potentially leading to performance improvements in critical components. The technology allows for an iterative design process leveraging material properties and Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) techniques.

As advanced manufacturing continues to evolve in Australia, WAM® presents a compelling option for companies seeking to push the boundaries of metal fabrication. AML3D’s ARCEMY® system, with its user-friendly software suite, offers a powerful solution for tackling large-scale projects with efficiency and precision. As WAM® technology matures and its capabilities are further explored, we can expect it to play a significant role in empowering Australian manufacturers to compete on a global scale.

Considering WAM® for your manufacturing needs?

If you’re an advanced manufacturer in Australia working with large-scale metal components, WAM® might be the perfect fit for your needs. While other AM processes remain valuable tools, AML3D’s Wire Additive Manufacturing process offers unique advantages in terms of scale, material efficiency, and versatility, making it a strong contender for specific applications. Reach out to AML3D to explore how this innovative technique can revolutionise your metal fabrication processes.