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Rapid and Additive, But Forging?
Posted on June 21st, 2017 by Ken Klapproth in New Materials & Applications
Forging is not typically a term associated with 3D printing processes so was surprising to see when French 3D printing company Prodways recently announced its new technology. While the process does involve metal deposition, can it legitimately be classified as ‘forging’ if a hammer or press is never involved?
Excitement builds every year in the aerospace industry in anticipation of the Paris Air Show. Many companies servicing the industry use the event as a springboard for their new offerings. On the show’s eve, Prodways Group – a subsidiary of Groupe Gorgé – announced the presentation of its new RAF Technology (Rapid Additive Forging) for the 3D metal printing of titanium parts. Used for its light weight but high strength properties, titanium parts for the aerospace industry are traditionally produced from oversized blocks using subtractive milling operations.
The Prodways Group describes their new process as involving robotic deposition of molten metal in an atmosphere of inert gas. As with other 3D printing technologies, the metal is deposited in layers. Nowhere in the company’s description is the mention of any hammering or pressing steps which are the basis of the forging manufacturing operation. In comparison to the additive manufacturing technology of powder deposition followed by some form of sintering, Prodways’ molten metal deposition theoretically produces parts of better metallurgical homogeneity and reduced metal porosity, but forging is used to align internal grain structures to the shape of the part for improved strength.
Forging is one of the oldest metal forming processes. Until the industrial revolution introduced powered hammer forges or presses, it was done by brute force using hand wielded hammers. Many artisan forges still use this traditional approach as shown in the following video:
Titanium is an expensive material typically requiring even more expensive and lengthy manufacturing cycles. By employing the concept of a near net shape part produced using Prodways RAF, it seems logical the significant expense and time associated with traditional manufacturing can be reduced. In my opinion, this will certainly be a win for the aerospace industry, but I wouldn’t call it ‘forging’. A rose by any other name.
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