Main Characteristics of Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing
Wire arc additive manufacturing (WAAM) is a metal 3D printing process in the directed energy deposition (DED) category. WAAM uses an electric arc to melt a wire feedstock material, which is deposited layer-by-layer to build up a 3D object. Some of the main characteristics of wire arc additive manufacturing include:
- High deposition rates compared to other 3d printing technologies such as powder bed fusion: WAAM has very high deposition rates, which can be up to several kilograms per hour, making it a very efficient process for large-scale additive manufacturing.
- High material utilization: WAAM typically has a high material utilization rate, as the wire feedstock is used more efficiently than other metal 3D printing techniques that use powder feedstocks.
- Suitable for large-scale parts: Because of its high deposition rates, WAAM is well-suited for producing large-scale parts, such as aerospace structures and marine components.
- Can work with a wide range of materials: WAAM can work with a wide range of materials, including metals like steel, aluminum, and titanium, as well as their alloys.
- Lower cost: The wire feedstock used in WAAM is typically less expensive than the powder feedstocks used in other metal 3D printing techniques, making it often a more cost-effective option for criticial component applications.
- High surface quality after finishing: WAAM can produce parts with high surface quality, which is of importance for applications like aerospace and automotive components. It is necessary to note that just like most DED processes, WAAM requires a finish machining or grinding operation of functional surfaces.
- Requires specialized equipment: WAAM requires specialized equipment, including a welding machine and a robotic arm or CNC motion system, which can make it more complex and expensive than other metal 3D printing processes.
- Requires skilled operators: Skilled operators are recommended to control the process parameters and ensure that the final part meets the required specifications.
Exciting New Applications for Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing
Wire arc additive manufacturing is rapidly growing in importance in the modern manufacturing industry. While initial qualifications of new applications and materials can take some time, the overwhelming interest in the technology is supported by qualification and standardization organizations such as AWS, ASME, API and ASTM and others. Some of the published applications for wire arc additive manufacturing include:
- Aerospace: WAAM is used to manufacture large, complex aerospace parts such as wing spars, engine mounts, and landing gear components. WAAM is particularly suitable for these applications as it enables the production of large-scale
components with high material integrity and minimal waste.
- Marine: WAAM is used to manufacture propellers and other marine components, including ship hull segments and submarine parts. WAAM is used because of its ability to produce large-scale components quickly and cost-effectively.
- Automotive: WAAM is used in the production of car parts, including special engine blocks, transmission cases, and suspension components. WAAM is used because of its ability to produce parts with high strength and durability.
- Construction: WAAM is used to manufacture large, custom-designed structural components for construction projects. WAAM is particularly suitable for this application as it enables the production of large, complex parts with high material integrity and minimal waste.
- Medical: WAAM is used to produce patient-specific implants for orthopedic surgery. WAAM enables the production of implants with complex geometries tailored to the patient’s anatomy, resulting in better patient outcomes.
Overall, WAAM has shown great promise in a variety of applications where large, complex parts are required, and there is a need for cost-effective, sustainable, and efficient manufacturing processes. Wire arc additive manufacturing is continuously improved to raise productivity rates, widen the range of material alloys used and further increase the print quality. These developments include the 3d printing with multiple heads, integration of closed-loop process control, weld monitoring with thermal imaging and acoustic signal evaluation.