Feb.4, 2014

3D printing was invented in 1984 and was initially known as additive manufacturing. Since then, the technology has grown, changed and inspired a handful of fundamentally different additive-manufacturing (AM) processes. One process is electron beam melting (EBM). Arcam AB, a Mölndal, Sweden-based AM equipment manufacturer founded in 1997, has developed an EBM system to build up fully dense metal components layer by layer, melted by a powerful electron beam. Each layer is melted to the exact geometry defined by a CAD model.

Today Arcam is one of just 5 listed companies in the world that makes 3D printers. "I've been surprised there hasn't been such a large fuss about it earlier. We've been doing it for quite some time but it has been I think fairly unnoticed." says Isak Elfström, vice president of R&D at Arcam.

Despite a $1-million price tag for each of the huge, heavy, fridge-like blocks, orders have been flooding in. Revenues grew 75 percent since last year, swallowing up targets for both 2014 and 2015. The hype over 3D printing has skyrocketed the company's share price - soaring 530 percent in the past year.

Custom Cranio-Maxillofacial implant / image: Arcam

"Arcam's success is down to these. Hip implants made from titanium powder. The company reckons its machines have produced 30,000 already, accounting for 2% of the global market." comments Reuters' Reporter Ivor Bennett.

Arcam focuses on two market: aerospace and orthopedic Implants. Arcam's customers also include Boeing, Airbus and NASA. Most are initially infatuated with the complete freedom of design. Each part in a single build-run can be of a different design and can also include a custom, internally porous structure. The company's MultiBeam technology uses extremely fast deflection electronics to direct and move an electron beam, enabling optimization of surface finish, precision and build speed simultaneously. Compared to laser sintering, EBM creates thicker layers, so parts can be grown five to 10 times faster than with laser sintering. The downside to EBM's quicker build speed is rougher surface finishes.

Acetabular cups with integrated Trabecular Structures™ for improved osseointegration / image: Arcam

But the real benefit could be what comes next, which may be cheaper and lighter aircraft, or improved fuel consumption. According to Arcam CEO Magnus René, this is still a long way off. "Most of the industry are still focusing on the values they get when they use these systems for prototyping. But in order to fully develop the value of 3D printing, you have to move into production."

General Electric is doing just that. General Electric's oil and gas division will begin pilot production of 3D printed metal fuel nozzles which feed combustion in gas turbines. But from jet engines to implants, ears to guns - the technology could have an impact on all ways of life. It's now just a question of when.


Posted in 3D Printing Company



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