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VIDEO: AM in 10 – additive manufacturing and the hydraulics industry

Featured Image - AM in 10 - Additive Manufacturing and hydraulics

In this AM in 10 video, Gen3D’s Applications Engineer, Dr Steve Goguelin takes you through additive manufacturing in the hydraulics industry in just 10 minutes. He will discuss how additive manufacturing can be used more within this industry and the what, why and how of applying AM, and especially, AM design to create optimised components. 


Why and how to use additive manufacturing in the hydraulics industry

What is the point of using additive manufacturing to produce hydraulic components? This is a sensible question to begin this discussion, because typically (especially with metal) the cost of AM is higher than machining the same component from a billet of material. However, the most important point of this discussion about AM in the hydraulics industry is that we do not want to create the same components in AM as we would with traditional methods. We want to significantly optimise these components.

Potential advantages of using additive manufacturing

If we get the AM design right, mass saving is the main advantage. We are able to place material where we want to place material, rather than being constrained. Compared with traditional methods, we can achieve a smaller footprint and reduce the size of the components. We also can:

  • Stop making do with off the shelf products that can compromise assembly
  • Design specific components for specific needs and achieve a high degree of customisation
  • Manufacture in batch sizes without expensive tooling
  • Get better fluid characteristics
  • Reduce waste

Watch the video to find out more details.

The most important ‘how’ is not to design and print the same component that would be manufactured using milling or casting. This is why design is so important when it comes to AM, and this is why Gen3D was created – to offer AM design software that helps create these optimised components easily.

What are the key considerations of design for fluids and hydraulic components?

We’ve identified two key areas in this “AM for 10 video”.

1) Support Structure

Support structure is a challenge for hydraulic components especially internal support structure. They are necessary for additive manufacturing but can be a challenge to remove from the part, post-build. This is an issue especially if it can’t be accessed by the post-processing technology that we need. For example, in a hydraulic part, this can be inside of one of the fluid galleries. Therefore it’s important to reduce support structures.

Watch the AM in 10 video to find out more about how to achieve this.

Design for AM considerations

2) Tolerances

AM techniques cannot achieve the same tolerances that we can achieve with milling. Therefore some of the interfaces of the part will still need to be post-processed to ensure an accurate fit with external components. We may add extra stock material inside various aspects of the part that we can post machine out using CNC milling operations. 

This will leave us with an adequate set of tolerances to ensure there are no leaks in our hydraulic components post-build. Fixturing the parts is also important.

Tolerance in additive manufacturing

Challenges of additive manufacturing in the hydraulics industry

One of the challenges in AM is inspection and qualification, and this is especially true in the hydraulics industry – in safety-critical applications such as the aerospace industry. AM designs and the parts we build must be the same and this can involve rigorous inspection methods. 

inspection and qualification of a hydraulic manifold

Surface roughness

The surface roughness of many additive manufacturing processes is higher than that of the milling process. This can reduce the fatigue life of hydraulic components. There are some techniques to improve the surface roughness such as abrasive flow machining.

Surface roughness of part produced with additive manufacturing

Cost of additive manufacturing

The initial costs for producing hydraulic components from additive manufacturing can potentially be higher than traditional methods. This is because you go from having one machining operation, say if you’re milling your hydraulic component, to two if you’re introducing an additive manufacturing machine into the process. 

However, it’s important to look at the total cost of ownership of that hydraulic component and also the advantages –  the improved fluid characteristics that can be achieved and the reduced weight of the component which can potentially lead to cost savings over the total cost of owning that component. 

The future of additive manufacturing hydraulic components

With the advantages that additive manufacturing brings for part and assembly consolidation, we’re going to start seeing more integrated systems being created using additive manufacturing. 

We will see things like servo valves hydraulic manifolds filters and accumulators printed as single monolithic components that can be optimised for the end application and printed using an additive manufacturing method. 

Ultimately, as more people adopt additive manufacturing, the cost of these systems will be driven down and therefore provide cost advantages compared to traditional manufacturing methods. Watch the video to hear more predictions about the future of additive manufacturing in the hydraulics industry. 

The future of addive manufacturing in the hydraulics industry