Ante Kaselj: Yes, with pleasure. We are a subsidiary of Mistras Group with headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey. They have more than 6,000 employees in more than 100 locations in 16 countries, and they are a company listed in New York. GMA and Mistras have both grown with testing technology within the scope of quality control. Our parent enterprise’s focus is on the oil and gas industry as well as on aerospace, with customers like Boeing. GMA has a focus on aerospace, too, but we are also active in the energy, chemicals, pharmaceutical, and the automotive sectors, as well as in various other industries. We offer our customers the complete range of quality control from one source. For this purpose, we are keeping up eight testing centers of our own, where we conduct destructive and non-destructive testing. At the same time, we also do non-destructive testing at the customers’ own location with state-of-the-art ultrasound and X-ray methods. Anyone moving in this market needs comprehensive certification, and we can produce that for various sectors. Our offer is rounded up by consultation, during which our quality engineers advise customers on optimization as well as on production processes, and they also accompany development processes. Here, we are drawing on our quality control know-how from diverse sectors.
Which part of the value chain in additive manufacturing do you cover?
Kaselj: For quite some time now, we have been doing destructive as well as non-destructive testing of AM components for aerospace customers. Among other things, we recently acquired a CT system for our testing center in Düsseldorf; with computed technology, it is possible to inspect miniscule structures of additively manufactured components in 2D and 3D, and to analyze any possible faults – I am referring to displays here.
As a tester, are you specializing in specific AM materials or applications?
Kaselj: So far, it is mainly about titanium components for aerospace, and titanium implants for medical technology. On behalf of our customers, we determine parameters with destructive testing. In connection with non-destructive testing, we thus create a foundation for close-to-production testing. So far, standardization in additive manufacturing is still in the fledgling stages. Up to now, customers’ specifications serve as a guideline. Nevertheless, precise quality standards are needed, just like they are for traditional manufacturing technologies. To the development of such standards, we would like to contribute our experience gathered in three decades. After all, the lack of standards still scares away many potential users who would actually expect a great advantage through industrial 3D printing – especially in the metals sector.
Are there specific challenges to the testing of AM components?
Kaselj: Yes! As there is this lack of standards and a very special material structure arising from the additive melting process, our engineers need a lot of time for error analysis and the interpretation of causation. Is it a defective process or a singular event? To this purpose, a CT system is very helpful. With this, our specialists can zoom deeply into single component parts and get to the bottom of such displays in detail. Additionally, it is possible to quickly convey CT scans to customers so as to include them during interpretation. In the long run, it will be possible to categorize errors, and to deduct optimized parameters for the additive manufacturing process. Our specialists in aerospace and in welding technology possess the know-how needed to assess errors and to create a catalogue of those errors that typically arise. One thing should be mentioned, though: considering that AM is a very young technology, the level of quality is extraordinarily high, even when compared to traditional technologies.
How do you imagine a typical AM process chain of 2030, and which role do testing services providers like GMA play in that?
Kaselj: I can only answer this from the perspective of a testing services manager. We would like to be integrated in the process chains of the future, and to contribute our quality control know-how. We ask the right questions already in the preparation stages so that error sources get no chance to enter the process chain. Personally, I am convinced that additive manufacturing in 2030 will be about in-process testing for series production. This is because there will not be series release for many sectors if the often highly complex components cannot be taken for non-destructive testing. For such special, often individually fitted products, testing intensity is much higher than for standard products. One very promising application is the field of maintenance for aviation. Here, a decentralized spare parts production on demand promises enormous logistic as well as financial advantages. But in order to manage the printing of conveyed component data locally and installing them into passenger planes, a corresponding quality control will be indispensable. In the future, our international company group can accompany such decentralized processes.
What were your goals in joining the VDMA Additive Manufacturing Association ?
Kaselj: We would like to contribute our comprehensive expertise so that additive manufacturing can be brought quickly to industrial maturity in cooperation with other players from the sector. Currently, there are still large gaps when it comes to quality control, but this is as much a chance as it is a challenge. We see a lot of potential in the AM sector for our company. The Association provides us with opportunities to get to know the perspectives of users, system manufacturers, suppliers, or material manufacturers, and to share with them our point of view on the technology and options for quality control. We wish to contribute to the discussion on standards.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row] [/ihc-hide-content]