Additive manufacturing continues to evolve. Here’s a look at how Wayne Davey, Global Head of Sales and Go-to-Market for 3D Printing Solutions, HP Inc., sees the latest developments in this industry.
MPF: Over the last few years, various commentators have discussed the need for designers to think differently when designing for additive manufacturing versus machining and injection molding. Where do you see the design thinking now, and where does it need to get to in order to take full advantage of AM?
Davey: The manufacturing industry is seeing the benefits of reframing the design process to better suit additive manufacturing. With a fresh perspective to product structure and design, manufacturers are able to create unique, cost-effective and, most importantly, commercially useful products. Engineers developing products that cannot be manufactured today is one element of 3D printing realizing its full potential. To take 3D printing to the next level, however, means looking toward mass scale production. For that, we need to pair 3D printing with other innovative technologies like AI and machine learning. Using data-driven insights, manufacturers can push the boundaries even further and create complex, high quality parts that are also sustainable.
A great example of this is HP’s partnership with Cobra Golf and Parmatech where a first of its kind, limited edition, 3D printed putter is being manufactured commercially using HP Metal Jet. The KING Supersport-35 putter features a thin exoskeleton braced by lattice beams—entirely different from traditional putters made with solid chunks of metal. Cobra Golf is also leveraging HP’s Multi Jet Fusion platform for three oversized models in the King 3D Printed Series – the GrandSport-35, the SuperNova and the Agera – producing a nylon lattice cartridge to optimize weight distribution for high moments of inertia and stability. And just last month, Cobra Golf announced that it is expanding its collection of KING Putters with new options for personalization, like different shapes and colors.
Cobra Golf and so many others are showing the world what can be achieved when 3D printing platforms and design tools are seamless. As the industry continues to leverage breakthroughs in automation, software, and data, customers will be better equipped to understand the entire end-to-end lifecycle, from supply chain to the useful life of a part, so that better parts can be printed with improved design.
MPF: Are there new applications emerging as a result of additive’s capabilities? What are they?
Davey: The ability for increased customization has broken down the barriers of what is possible for new and emerging applications. Take healthcare for example. Through the evolving capabilities of AM, the health and wellness industry is poised to greatly benefit from the advanced design and manufacturing. According to HP’s Digital Manufacturing report, 55% of those surveyed predict the medical industry will see the most innovation. AM has the capabilities to deliver personalized and customized care of specific ailments. Consider as an example, a blend of advanced 3D printing and cloud-based software that allows podiatrists and orthotists to capture 3D renderings of a patient’s foot, fine-tune and prescribe personalized orthoses for their patients in less than five minutes.
The automotive industry is also investing heavily in AM. They are taking parts and redesigning them using metal binder jetting for structural components for the first time. While the pieces or functionalities might not be an emerging application, the way in which they are designed and created are a first for a heavily regulated industry.
A strong example of this is HP’s collaboration with GM and GKN Forecast3D. GM recently turned to HP’s Multi Jet Fusion printing technology to produce a spoiler closeout seal, which typically goes through a standard finishing process. In three weeks, together with GM and GKN Forecast3D, we were able to design, create, and implement a viable value stream for the rear spoiler seal, with speed and flexibility that would have not been possible with traditional manufacturing models. The result was an accelerated production schedule, creating and polishing the required 60,000 parts over the span of five weeks for use on approximately 30,000 parts for full-sized SUVs.
MPF:Scaling additive technology is becoming a more frequent subject. What do users of AM need to understand to convince management to invest in AM now, and what does management need to understand about AM scale to have more confidence in this technology?
Davey: The value proposition for AM investment today is three-pronged:
Manufacturers are seeking greater supply diversification with an emphasis on localized, on-demand production to build more resilient supply chains
Consumers want the goods they purchase to be tailored specifically to them—hyper-personalized—an expectation filtering in from their experiences interacting and consuming in the digital world.
Sustainability mindset, consumers are actively making calculated purchasing decisions that are also better for the planet.
These market moving trends are all intertwined by one common factor – traditional manufacturing methods are inefficient and costly at addressing all three, especially at once. The opportunity cost of not evolving with the new manufacturing paradigms facing us today is a risk that can no longer be overlooked. And it’s not just one industry being impacted. Across the board, automakers, health and wellness brands, sports equipment manufacturers and so many more are looking for new processes and technologies like 3D printing that help them meet these demands quickly, economically, and at a mass scale.
3D printing’s capabilities are unmatched. It offers economic viability removing cost implications of part inventories, expedites iteration and speed to market, and is less resource-intensive. These are all factors that can improve a company’s bottom line. As the ability to scale increases, so does the reality of mass-personalization through additive manufacturing.
MPF: There’s a lot of discussion about the supply chain. What are some of the better applications for additive in a supply chain system today? What could they be in the next few years? What will it take to get there?
Davey: Companies are actively looking for ways that 3D printing can strengthen their supply chains, enabling them to become more agile, creating more innovative product development, and manufacturing strategies. We saw firsthand during the pandemic that 3D printing can be a solution to a distributed supply chain, helping manufacturers develop, iterate and manufacture goods at a challenging time. Through 3D printing, manufacturers can create parts needed for goods that may have been backlogged due to the supply chain – enabling a quicker time to customer journey.
But it’s not just in times of crisis that additive will bring benefits to the supply chain system. 3D printing enables both short and long-term solutions capable of near-instant responses to market changes. What once worked in traditional manufacturing models are not conducive to today’s environment. For example, older models were not built for shorter runs or minimized inventory. Localized production will continue to be prioritized. This is an unparalleled competitive advantage for companies, but customers and the world around us see benefits as well.
3D printing a better putter
COBRA Golf, a leader in golf club innovation, used 3D Printing technology on its KING Supersport-35 putter. This putter has been in collaboration with COBRA engineers and the teams at HP and Parmatech. It features a fully 3D printed metal body with an intricate lattice structure to optimize weight distribution and deliver the highest-possible MOI in a blade shape. In addition to the 3D printed design, the putter features a face insert designed in partnership with SIK Golf, which uses their patented Descending Loft Technology (DLT) to create the most consistent and accurate roll on every putt.
The COBRA’s LE 3D-printed Supersport-35 Putter represents a revolutionary advancement in the way golf clubs are designed and manufactured. Born out of a forward-thinking philosophy, COBRA selected HP as its partner to pioneer 3D printing in golf due because of HP’s Metal Jet Technology. With its quick processing time and design adaptability, COBRA engineers were able to design, prototype, and test multiple iterations and bring the product to market faster than using traditional manufacturing methods.
COBRA and HP began working together in early 2019 and, by early 2020, the team had created thirty-five different design iterations over the course of eight months using the HP Metal Jet.
The Supersport putter, which comes in an oversized blade shape, features SIK Golf’s Patented Descending Loft technology reengineered into an aluminum face insert. This insert design strategically saves weight from the front of the putter to be repositioned heel-toe and tunes the feel to a slightly softer feel than a traditional all-steel SIK putter face. Their signature face design uses four descending lofts (4°, 3°, 2°, 1°) to ensure the most consistent launch conditions for every putting stroke.
HP Metal Jet 3D printing delivers excellent part quality and requires minimal post-process finishing. The entire putter body is printed using 316 stainless steel, and then sintered at a high temperature to bind the metal and form the final head part. Due to the capabilities of Metal Jet printing, engineers printed an intricate lattice structure within the body – a manufacturing feat that wouldn’t be possible using traditional casting or forging methods. The lattice fine-tunes feel and optimizes the distribution of weight within the putter head to create the highest MOI without the need for additional fixed weights. During the final step of the manufacturing process, the surfaces of the putter are precision milled using a Computer Numeric Controlled (CNC) machine to ensure precise shaping and detail while adding the finishing touches to the cosmetic. The Supersport features a high MOI heel-toe weighted design for maximum stability, and a plumber neck hosel with a 35-degree toe hang suitable for slight arc putting strokes.
The lattice structure removes weight from the center of the putterhead and pushes significant amounts of weight to the perimeter. The result is superior MOI levels and massively increased stability and forgiveness.
The final product is a celebration of a major revolution in golf club manufacturing in the form of a high-performance putter that will appeal to golf purists seeking a clean look and feel but is packed with advanced technology to improve the quality of a golfer’s short game.