by Melissa Donovan
Morf3D celebrates six years in additive manufacturing (AM) serving the aerospace and defense markets. The company’s focus is on serial production, achieving fully optimized functional structures and build processes for hundreds of parts each month, varying based on size and/or geometry for its customers.
Above: Example of one of the many parts Morf3D is capable of producing using AM.
Its main services include AM, parameter development, materials and processes, post processing, data analytics, inspection, and certification. At press time, the AM serial production facilitator operated out of an 18,000 square foot location in El Segundo, CA.
At the beginning of the Morf3D journey, Ivan Madera, CEO, Morf3D, says he realized early on that 3D printing would be a pivotal part of the company. Madera has a background in management consulting with a focus on manufacturing and supply chains. Before founding Morf3D, he was looking into emerging technologies and AM caught his eye.
Advancements in 3D printing directly influenced Morf3D’s capabilities. “Historically, folks look at AM as a replacement to casting or forging, but now people look at it as a way to create complex geometries that can’t be completed by any other means. It is a multi-faceted, multi-use system, advancements on the design side can be agile and improved upon as part of the manufacturing process,” explains Madera.
Once Morf3D was up and running, the team explored 3D platforms that could meet the needs of its top-tier aerospace clients. Key considerations, according to Madera, were that the printers be stable and heavily adopted in the industry, as well as offer the ability to be serviced.
Over the next few years, Morf3D noticed that SLM Solutions was achieving great things in the multi-laser space, most notably in its approach to multi-stitching. As Madera did his due diligence, he realized that SLM Solutions was publishing data in its material datasheets that proved the quality necessary to certify a process. “SLM Solutions made huge strides to bring forth innovation and upped the quality with service framework. Multi-laser platforms and productivity are what the industry is looking for to achieve scale in the future,” he shares.
SLM Solutions’ timing was ideal because Morf3D was about to embark on one of its loftiest goals yet—the Applied Digital Manufacturing Center (ADMC). The expectation, create a manufacturing facility that functions as a real-world automated factory, offering AM serial production.
“We need a high level of collaboration between world-class industry partners. This is beyond research and development, it is the intersection of cutting-edge technology that can repeatedly meet customer production requirements. We are building out the first integrated production system and qualifying that system for global serial production. The focus in the past few years was to certify parts and the machines that made that parts, which became very limiting if the volumes grew into the thousands and the requirements global,” explains Madera.
Morf3D’s newest location, which broke ground in April 2021, is based in Long Beach, CA. The 90,000 square foot space will be home to the ADMC and its vision for the future of AM, scaling up to meet production levels. Here, it will leverage partner networks to transform supply chain norms and develop the industry’s first certified production system to accelerate the industrialization of digital manufacturing.
To achieve this, Morf3D decided to collaborate with partners offering stable platforms that could build the same parts today, tomorrow, or years from now. The company is confident it can do this with EOS and SLM Solutions as printer parters all while improving product lead time, order flexibility, cost efficiency, and quality.
Upping the Portfolio
In September 2021, Morf3D announced plans to purchase platforms from SLM Solutions, specifically two SLM 500s and a NXG XII 600 printer. All three will be installed in the ADMC in 2022.
The SLM 500 was chosen because it is commonly used in the aerospace industry. A quad laser selective laser melting system it can integrate lasers independently or in parallel to increase build rates by 90 percent over twin laser configurations. It offers a 500x280x365 millimeter (mm) build envelope, automated powder handling, and a part removal station.
According to Madera, the NXG XII 600 is “something transformative, next-generation cutting edge technology.” It is equipped with 12 lasers, thousand watts each and designed to be used in serial production for high-volume applications as well as large parts. Per SLM Solutions, it is capable of printing at speeds 20 times faster than a single laser system and five times faster than a quad laser machine. It features a build envelope of 600x600x600 mm.
Powering these devices is Siemens NX software, which is a flexible and powerful integrated solution for design, simulation, and manufacturing. Users can program CNC machine tools, control robotic cells, drive 3D printers, and monitor quality with one system. It can digitally transform a part manufacturing business to gain productivity and increase profitability.
Inconel, a class of nickel-chromium-based superalloys, is often used. It offers high-performance qualities like resistance to corrosion and oxidation ideal for propulsion systems like turbo machinery and rockets. SLM Solutions’ IN 718 offers excellent tensile, fatigue, creep, and rupture strengths up to 700 degrees Celsius.
Part of the partnership with SLM Solutions includes on-site support from the company’s application engineers in the form of education, training, and consulting. According to a September 2021 press release on the announcement, all of the research and development partners involved with the ADMC will have access to collective training, meeting, and gathering spaces for customer events and business development units. Besides SLM and EOS, other partners joining the ADMC include Nikon and Siemens.
Meeting the Challenge
While 3D printing has proven it is up to the challenge of creating complex geometries, its next task it to scale up to meet production-level demand. “The challenge is going from handfuls to tens and thousands, you can’t scale that without a stable, certified platform. Technology plays a key role in automating and steamlining to achieve manufacturing success,” says Madera. Morf3D and the ADMC are poised to meet this head on, thanks to help from SLM Solutions and its technology.
Nov2021, Industrial Print Magazine