An Engineer’s Guide to Scaling Metal AM, Part 2: The Importance of Calibration

December 8, 2022

Metal additive manufacturing has been a game-changing technology in the production of core parts across countless innovative industries. While its value can’t be understated in its ability to produce short runs of parts, or in the process of prototyping, engineers have long searched for a scalable AM solution.

Overcoming these challenges in scalability is no easy feat. In part one of this series, we discussed how variances from machine to machine and site to site make it extremely difficult to ensure repeatability in manufacturing, which is vital to scalability.

Overcoming Challenges to Scaling AM Production

For a more in depth look at how Velo3D is helping to scale additive manufacturing production, download our whitepaper.

Through the synergy of pre-print design software, the most advanced printers in the industry, and integrated quality assurance software, Velo3D has managed to limit this variability and create a truly scalable metal AM solution. To further minimize variance among fleets of printers year-to-year and at a global level, it’s essential that all printers tasked with producing the same part are consistently calibrated to the same specifications.

Understanding Fleet-Level Calibration

Once a part has been sliced within Velo3D’s Flow print-preparation software and has passed its first article print, engineers are left with what’s known as a “Golden Print File.” What the golden print file entails is a set of proprietary print settings that can be used to repeatedly print a part, as needed, on any Velo3D Sapphire printer, anywhere in the world, year after year.

While the Golden Print File is an invaluable asset, for the proven design to be executed on an entire fleet of printers, it’s vital that those printers are operating from the same framework of calibration. One of the major challenges of legacy metal AM systems is that a successful print may work at one location today, but discrepancies in printers over time may mean one set of instructions is limited to a single machine serial number and expires for each new calibration.

For a CM operating multiple legacy metal AM printers, each printer may use the same parameters, but calibrations can shift from each machine or after each build. And when you consider that challenge on an entire fleet of printers worldwide, it seems nearly impossible to address. It’s the main reason why metal AM faces such an uphill battle in scaling.

At Velo3D, our calibration is automated and done at the fleet level, meaning all printers in the field are assigned for a specific material and machines are calibrated to achieve the same result and don’t experience the variability in results seen from manual calibration routines. A Sapphire printer in California assigned to print a component in Inconel 718 will be calibrated the same as a printer in Australia and can be expected to replicate the same material properties and geometric accuracy.

The Velo3D fully integrated metal AM solution is singularly focused on producing high-quality 3D printed parts. By controlling parameters and ensuring that all printers receive the same print instructions, our automated ability to calibrate each system to execute those instructions means we’re able to provide a repeatable, scalable solution. With a repeatable process, we can achieve scalability in multiple ways.

  1. With all printers calibrated the same, incorporating more printers into the same factory means an increase in production capacity. In legacy systems, more printers doesn’t necessarily mean larger print capacity because there is no prospect of consistency. In the Velo3D system, there is.
  2. Additionally, engineers can deploy larger printers calibrated in the same way as their smaller counterparts. In the Velo3D system, every printer, no matter its volume capacity, can be calibrated at the fleet level with other printers. Expanding the print volume by opting for a larger build plate with the Sapphire XC can help scale an operation.
  3. Easily scale from project runs to qualify your application into full production by leveraging a qualified contract manufacturing network or scale your own manufacturing facility (or both!)

By building a fully integrated AM solution, Velo3D has created the conditions for scalability. Calibrating printers on the fleet level is just one aspect of this innovative process.

Learn more about how Velo3D executes fleet-level calibration by downloading our whitepaper today.

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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.