Addressing the Skilled Welder Shortage with Velo3D’s Metal Additive Manufacturing Solutions

July 8, 2024

The manufacturing industry is facing a critical shortage of skilled welders. The American Welding Society (AWS) projects a need for 360,000 new welding professionals by 2027. This is due to factors like industry growth and a wave of retirements, with an average of 90,000 welding jobs needing to be filled annually between 2023 and 2027. 

As older generations of welders retire, there is a significant gap left in the workforce, exacerbated by the growing demand for precision in advanced manufacturing sectors such as aerospace, defense, and energy. This shortage not only slows down production lines but also drives up costs as companies compete for the dwindling pool of qualified workers.

Streamlining manufacturing with advanced solutions

In response to this challenge, companies are increasingly turning to innovative technologies. One approach is automation – using robots to increase output while another is the use of metal additive manufacturing (AM). Both approaches are seeing that the key to adoption, lies in simplicity.

Velo3D technology, which combines hardware and software into one extensible solution focuses on simplifying the AM workflow from CAD file entry all the way through printed part manufacturing complete with an in-depth quality control solution. Flow pre-print software streamlines the metal AM workflow by providing a comprehensive solution that includes build layout, parameter customization, and detailed print instruction inspections. With the ability to directly import native CAD files, Flow reduces complications related to STL conversion.

Velo3D’s Assure quality control software reduces the challenge of metal AM quality control.  With real-time, multi-sensor monitoring that provides comprehensive visibility into every layer of a build, Assure offers traceability of machine health, part integrity, and build reporting through physics-based algorithms. Integrated with Grafana, Assure allows users to generate custom graphs and dashboards from nearly 1,000 sensor readings, offering deep insights and full access to data generated during printing.

Reduce Manual Welding and Simplify Complex Assemblies

Perhaps one of the most compelling benefits of Velo3D’s metal AM technology lies in its ability to produce single parts that integrate what would traditionally require dozens or even hundreds of separate pieces. This consolidation eliminates the need for extensive welding and streamlines the manufacturing process.

Take a look at the image above. It’s a cross-section of a Sierra Turbines engine combustor, showcasing its intricate internal features. Note the thin airfoils and smooth lattice structure – crucial for efficient fuel atomization before combustion. Traditionally, this combustor would require assembling 61 individual components. However, Velo3D’ metal 3D printing technology consolidates it into a single, unified geometry, preserving fine details and features impossible to achieve with other methods.

This example highlights the power of Velo3D’s metal AM: not only does it address the skilled labor shortage, but it also offers numerous advantages that can revolutionize your manufacturing workflows.

Additional benefits of Velo3D’s metal AM technology

  • Simplify the Manufacturing Process: Metal AM has the power to reduce the number of production steps. In our case study with RMS, they were able to reduce drawings by 66%, operations by 60%, and heat treatment by 25%, while eliminating the need for manual welding while producing a 23” shrouded impeller for an energy application. This process significantly streamlined the workflow, This not only optimized production efficiency but also minimized potential errors.
  • Eliminate production delays: By outsourcing additive manufacturing (AM) part production, RMS not only overcame traditional manufacturing challenges but also significantly accelerated production timelines, demonstrating how AM can transform component fabrication in the energy industry. Additionally, the adoption of these advanced manufacturing technologies fosters a shift in workforce skills from traditional welding to operating and maintaining AM systems, helping to mitigate the skills gap and attract a new generation of high-tech workers.
  • Eliminate Manufacturing Risks: Welded components often face manufacturing risks. These risks can include chemistry variations, CNC programming errors, and weld distortion, which can lead to the shrinkage of the critical flow paths. Additionally, traditional materials often provide limited options to optimize for corrosion resistance, hardness, and strength. Metal AM offers many new alloy options that expand
  • Enhance Material Properties: Welding can often introduce weaknesses such as warping or heat-affected zones. Velo3D’s metal AM process minimizes these issues, producing parts with consistent material properties throughout. This uniformity is vital for applications requiring high performance under extreme conditions.
  • Source Sustainably: Velo3D’s additive manufacturing process is inherently less wasteful than traditional manufacturing methods, including conventional welding. By using only the material necessary to build the part and minimizing waste, Velo3D’s technology supports more sustainable manufacturing practices. This is especially salient as shifting geopolitics continue to factor into the availability of raw materials now and into the future.

View of completed 483 mm shrouded impeller printed on a Velo3D Sapphire XC. For scale, the impeller is bigger than a typical NY-style pizza (typically 18”)

Ushering in the next industrial revolution

The shortage of skilled welders is a significant challenge, but it also presents an opportunity for innovation. Velo3D’s metal additive manufacturing solutions offer a compelling alternative that not only addresses the immediate issue of the labor shortage but also enhances manufacturing capabilities. As industries continue to evolve, the adoption of such advanced technologies will be crucial in maintaining competitive advantage and driving future growth.

By investing in metal AM technologies like those offered by Velo3D, companies can ensure resilience against current and future workforce challenges while pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in manufacturing.

For more information or to see how our solutions can benefit your operations, contact us at info@velo3D.com.

 

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About the Author

Amir Iliaifar

Director of Content

Amir Iliaifar is the Director of Content at Velo3D where he oversees the production and distribution of Velo3D’s global digital content marketing initiatives. Prior to joining the company, Amir worked for a leading professional drone manufacturer, several SaaS companies, and as an automotive tech journalist. He holds a Master of Arts in Digital Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.