Page 18 - 3D Metal Printing Winter 2019
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 3D Hybrid-AM Startup Revs for Success
  “It definitely is challenging to combine other processes with additive in a new business, but it gives us some advan- tages,” he says. “A traditional machine shop may add additive machines, and just try to make the subtractive equipment work. Here, we are making sure to install the right machines that can handle additive parts right from the beginning.”
“Each machine must be taken as an entity unto itself,” Thomas continues. “Two seem- ingly identical AM machines using the same material do not necessarily run the same way with the same setup. We have to be diligent about setting up these machines correctly and training ourselves on each. AM equipment is not as fine-tuned or as mature as CNC equip- ment—it does not just work out of the box. Though chal- lenging, we work closely with our vendor partners to make sure that all of the machinery at KAM runs correctly.”
Making It Metal
KAM management sees true need in metal applications, especially for aerospace, and seeks to build that business from the start, Thomas tells 3D Metal Printing.
“Right now we strictly focus on metal additive, not to say we won’t get into com- posites,” he offers. “More than likely, com- posites would be involved as hybrid appli- cations, and we’d work with people more experienced in those materials. For instance, titanium-to-composite joining might be an area to explore. Nonmetal takes completely different skillsets on the part of engineers and materials-science personnel. Of course, we will work to sat- isfy potential customer needs no matter the material, but again, our initial focus is on metal.”
As for what metal alloys will populate KAM’s ingredient list, Thomas sees all sorts of possibilities.
hurdles include oxidation and hydrogen embrittlement, which cause cracking. Other issues revolving around the growth of columnar grains show them- selves depending on the build orientation.
“So to start off at KAM,” Thomas says, “we are sticking to the script and working with well-researched metal alloys— we don’t want to get in over our heads and bite off more than we can chew. We want to make sure that our machines build parts as intended.”
Quality Recognized as Key Factor
Ensuring such proper builds relies on robust quality. KAM management recognizes that, says Thomas, and such efforts should help set the company apart.
“With Steve Fetch’s back- ground in quality, we are investing a lot of time and ener- gy on our quality standards,” he says. “We’re not just earning
Sample products produced at KAM showcase the company’s metal-printing technology. Photo courtesy of Dana Jo Photography.
“I think that additive technologies bring such a new dynamic—the ability to blend and mix powders and do some crazy things,” he says. “But at the end of the day, we need usable alloys, and I think that the industry has not matured enough and lacks enough machines to allow for many new materials. AM has too much low-hanging fruit right now to take on more advanced alloys.
“Take aluminum, for example,” Thomas continues. “If the industry can nail down the 6000- and 7000-series alloys, just think of all of the aerospace part possibilities. Everyone wants to talk about titanium, but aluminum represents the vast amount of material in aerospace applications, and presents numerous challenges.”
What are some of these challenges? Alloying elements critical to an aluminum alloy tend to vaporize due to heat, which represents a significant hurdle in AM. Other
AS 9100 certification to make sure that we can check a box, we are implementing AS 91000 and getting everyone to buy into it so that our quality efforts are spot-on. In AM, aerospace and medical companies may be hesitant to work with a new com- pany without quality standards built-in, so that’s our main focus.”
Laser-beam focused on quality, and looking to build a metals-based business powered by an AM-conventional manu- facturing hybrid, KAM appears poised to succeed apart from its NASCAR and auto- motive lineage. But Thomas hints that, with NASCAR and auto racing in his blood, Keselowski wants a win in this sector, too.
“From aftermarket parts to higher pro- duction volumes, as AM grows and print- ers become faster, 3D printing will work its way into the more common automotive parts,” Thomas concludes. “AM will be huge in automotive one day, and Brad really wants to be a part of that.” 3DMP

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