Additive manufacturing of industrial valves
Additive manufacturing enables new, innovative solutions, including in the valve sector. In particular, the production of interior contours with almost any shape and production to CAD data enable individual solutions for applications in which conventional designs reach their limits. Does this path lead to new developments or is it just an end in itself?
Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, refers to all manufacturing processes in which the component to be produced is built up layer by layer from raw material (which exists in the form of a melt, a powder, a strand or a wire). The geometry is provided directly from the CAD drawing using the so-called STL interface, which has become the industry standard in this area.
With this interface, which was developed in 1988, the surface of the 3D body is represented by a large number of triangular facets, i.e. curved surfaces can only be approximated. The generally best-known process of additive manufacturing is Fused Deposition Modeling®, in which the component is built up from a thermoplastic by applying molten material layer by layer by extrusion from a nozzle and then solidifying. Known as “rapid prototyping”, this is the standard procedure for the rapid creation of illustrative and functional samples in product development.
With new manufacturing processes and the expansion to include other materials, in particular metals, ceramics and composites, additive manufacturing has now arrived in both the areas of tool creation (“rapid tooling”) and the production of finished parts (“rapid manufacturing”). Additive manufacturing differs markedly from conventional manufacturing methods, in which material is removed from a solid blank in order to obtain the desired component. Also, the design of a component is no longer primarily determined by the production technology, but (almost) exclusively by the function and the design optimised for it …