Delivering manufacturing excellence into one of the world's most agile manufacturing environments. With a focus on high quality metal powder products and services, adding consistency and reducing risk.
Carpenter Additive - Leading the Future of Additive Manufacturing
Carpenter Additive is a global leader in specialty alloys for over 130 years...
Historically, a metal manufacturing environment looks like something out of the dark ages. Carpenter are trying to make a steelworks for the 21st century, marrying pharma levels of cleanliness and quality with the responsiveness demanded from one of the manufacturing industry’s most agile environments, Additive Manufacturing.
Winners of the Queen’s award for Enterprise in Export, Carpenter Additive have grown at around 35% annually for the past four years. Today, Carpenter Additive is the leading manufacturer of ultra-clean additive manufacturing metal powders and powder traceability solutions for the metal 3D printing industry. The team have been able to drive their impressive growth by closely focussing on their customers' needs. Sounds obvious, however it’s easier said than done.
In additive manufacturing (AM) a part is only as good as the powder it comes from. For metal powders to deliver consistent AM built parts with the required properties it is critical to deﬁne an appropriate material speciﬁcation, with due regard for tolerances on manufacturing and testing variance. It is also necessary to establish limits which are tight enough to ensure any variations do not have a negative impact on process and application performance. Changes within speciﬁcation values can cause variations in material processability during part manufacture, or the ﬁnal mechanical properties of the part itself.
The control of contamination in metal powder feedstock, and the wider production environment, is therefore key to AM built parts delivering the mechanical properties expected of them. Among other issues, humidity, oxygen pick up or accidental contact with different powders can all cause issues with, for example, porosity, cracking or build stalling, ultimately leading to part failure. Atmospheric moisture and oxygen degrades the powder. To mitigate this different powder batches are mixed together. However even then, the structure of a component made with powder used 10 times will be very slightly different to one made with a new powder. That doesn’t matter so much with prototyping, where you’re making a one-off mainly to look at. But for something like a production turbine blade, strength and fatigue performance are critical.
To mitigate this, Carpenter Additive takes a lifecycle view of their powder. Whether testing and evaluating new materials, providing guidance to customers, or even embedding sensors into smart hoppers and containers as part of their powder lifecycle management systems, the team are singularly focused on the needs of their customers. In turn they have closely aligned their industrial engineering and manufacturing operations to match.
UK Facility and Equipment
Although Carpenter Additive has operations in the United States and Sweden, the £20 m UK facility is a great example of the team’s focus. The world’s first purpose-built production plant exclusively focused on the manufacture of AM metal powders, Carpenter Additive’s 90,000 sqft (9,700 m²) building sits on a seven-acre site provides a strategically design lab, a variety of advanced powder manufacturing and cleanroom and contamination technologies, not to mention customer responsive logistics operations capable of delivering to customers within 24 hours of ordering. This provides customers with full material traceability, digital integration and strict contamination controls to support their overall production processes.
Carpenter Additive’s capabilities begin with world leading material testing equipment to fully characterise metal powders and 3D Printers to develop the next generation of materials for AM. The unique portfolio of atomization processes, range of AM metal powders and PowderSolve industry 4.0 process software has been developed by Carpenter to increase material yield and ultimately reduce risk throughout the AM process.
At the sharper end of their manufacturing processes Carpenter Additive boasts a variety of powder production equipment (Atomizers) capable of making small to medium volumes of very clean powders, primarily custom titanium, nickel, cobalt, aluminium, and steel alloys. Capable of melting feedstock at approximately 1700ºC these atomizers convert molten metal into fine grade metal powder used to 3D-print parts for critical applications in aerospace, transportation and biomedical industries. Since there’s no one process that is best for all materials, so Carpenter Additive provides choice, manufacturing powder using all of the major atomization techniques including plasma, gas atomization, EIGA and PREP included.
At the sharper end of their manufacturing processes Carpenter Additive boasts a variety of powder production equipment (Atomizers) capable of making small to medium volumes of very clean powders, primarily custom titanium, nickel, cobalt, aluminium, and steel alloys. Capable of melting feedstock at approximately 1700ºC these atomizers convert molten metal into fine grade metal powder used to 3D-print parts for critical applications in aerospace, transportation and biomedical industries.
Since there’s no one process that is best for all materials, Carpenter Additive provides choice, manufacturing powder using all of the major atomization techniques including plasma, gas atomization, EIGA and PREP included.
Surrounding these processes, the facility is operated under cleanroom conditions with contamination controlled to a degree never before seen in the manufacture of AM metal powders. Designed to control contamination at every step of the process, with segregation of cells for specific material production, pressure, temperature and humidity are all carefully controlled, with segregation of cells for specific materials, with the different areas divided by air showers and interlocking doors.
All of this enable Carpenter Additive to produce the next iteration of metal powders, developed specifically for AM, with a focus on purity, size, consistency, cleanliness and traceability of material. As a result Carpenter Additive is accredited to AS 9120A for aerospace and ISO 13485 for medical applications, implementing robust quality management processes that assure the integrity of the tightly controlled metal powders it supplies to safety-critical sectors world-wide.
This all sounds incredibly impressive. Perhaps a proof of Carpenter Additive’s success is embodied in the PIXL assembly on NASA’S Perseverence Mars Rover. An important component of Perseverance, launched in July 2020, PIXL is the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL). Mounted on a turret at the end of the robotic cantilever arm, the PIXL assembly was designed by engineers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to perform precision chemical analysis and experiments in a physically demanding and hostile environment. n. The JPL team turned to Carpenter Additive hoping to take advantage of the design flexibility afforded by powder bed fusion 3D printing.
Driving more with Industry 4.0
As the industry accelerates more and more toward widespread serial AM production opportunities, efficient and secure powder handling becomes more and more critical. Creating a closed loop powder management solution provides the foundation which enables an intelligent, data driven production process.
Surrounding their advanced manufacturing processes Carpenter Additive have increasingly been investing in advanced, industry 4.0 related technologies.
Carpenter Additive fully believes the industry’s future needs are based around the automation and the intelligent use of data.
The First Challenge: Collecting Clean, Searchable Data
With 3D printed components inside mission-critical applications, it is imperative that the industry has full confidence in the materials used in additive manufacturing. Many leading adopters increasingly require a complete record, also known as qualified data pedigree or process control document (PCD), from their suppliers. In line with their rich R&D credentials Carpenter Additive are building a continuous data repository of powder characteristics, process variables, and consolidated material properties across a wide range of alloys.
Using Carpenter Additive’s PowderSolve software, their operators and lab staff upload data directly in an efficient, user-friendly way. This data is supplemented with additional data direct from lab test equipment, directly linked to PowderSolve via application programming interfaces (APIs) that effortlessly capture the raw data, avoiding the usual jumble of different spreadsheets and PDF test results to ensure the data is already in a relational, i.e. fully searchable, format. The team uses the software’s browser-based interface on their desktop or the mobile app to manage all their data and maintain full traceability for a given project.
Putting Data to work…
Carpenter Additive’s efforts with industry 4.0 don’t just stop with laboratory information systems and materials databases. Carpenter’s pursuit of excellence also extends into their industrial engineering and manufacturing processes, and the highly skilled R&D, production engineers and personnel who wield them. Focused on making
their processes leaner and removing the risk of contamination.
Increasingly for many companies this means digitizing their operations.
While there is a common perception that digitization is a threat to the world’s workers, leading companies are actually creating jobs. Leading companies like Carpenter Additive realise that people are the #1 priority in their operations and that their teams, and the skill of their teams, is really what’s going to define success in the future. It is people, and their ability to work together, iteratively, armed with the data they need to make the right decisions, that are key to increasingly agile manufacturing processes.
As a result, pragmatically Carpenter Additive, and other leading manufacturers are looking to better support their frontline workforce, upskilling, and making jobs easier and more interesting. Leading companies are better engaging their people to put technology in the hands of the workforce.
Specifically, this means digitizing industrial engineering and manufacturing process and execution. Turning paper based systems into more agile, responsive digital based processes that can capture and share best practice insight, as well as track and highlight abnormalities.
Carpenter Additive's continuous development
Today Carpenter Additive boasts an easy access, comprehensive digital thread containing information on the materials' process-structure-property relationships. This provides manufacturers with assurance of the performance and quality of their additive parts. What’s more it also provides a bedrock of base insight on which Carpenter Additive can actively improve the core performance of their materials.
Today’s technology lays the foundations for the digital journey, and with Carpenter Additive’s continual development of innovative new technologies for further automation and deeper supply chain integration are already becoming possible.
As a result of their efforts Carpenter Additive are uniquely positioned as a supply chain partner to support materials development and engage in data-driven improvements with their customers. Their mission is to enable widespread adoption of AM technology and provide confidence in the alloy materials used. You can find out more about Carpenter Additive from their website at carpenteradditive.com. Authentise is extremely proud to support Carpenter Additive.