Targeting heat treatment for metal 3D printing, a new HIP center is being established in the UK.

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The rise of metal additive manufacturing (AM) has paved the way for advancements in post-processing technologies in the 3D printing sector. One crucial technology that has gained momentum is hot isostatic pressing (HIP), which plays a vital role in enhancing the mechanical and structural properties of 3D printed metal parts. The Wallwork Group, based in the U.K., is set to open a HIP center in Bury, North Manchester in September 2023, demonstrating the expanding use of metal processing driven by AM.

At the heart of Wallwork’s HIP center will be the QIH 173L M URC, a press from Quintus Technologies based in Sweden. This press is specially optimized for high-performance material processing and can operate at a maximum temperature of 1250°C and a pressure of 207 MPa. With a work zone of 800 mm in diameter and 2550 mm in height, it boasts a capacity of over 7000 kg per cycle. One notable feature of this system is Quintus Technologies’ proprietary uniform rapid cooling (URC), which makes it particularly suitable for mission-critical applications where material uniformity is crucial. The installation of the first HIP at Wallwork’s center is currently underway.

HIP is commonly used to densify metal castings and forgings, eliminating internal porosity and improving the overall mechanical properties of these components. The same benefits have now been extended to the 3D printing sector as AM becomes more industrialized. One of the significant challenges in metal 3D printing is the formation of pores or voids within printed parts, which can significantly compromise their mechanical properties. HIP addresses this issue by subjecting the material to high temperature and isotropic pressure, effectively minimizing or eliminating porosity and ensuring uniform mechanical properties throughout the component. This is crucial for parts exposed to multi-axial stresses and requiring reliable long-term performance.

In addition to eliminating porosity, HIP also improves various material properties such as fatigue strength, ductility, and fracture toughness. This makes HIP-treated parts more reliable and durable, expanding their applications in high-stress environments. Furthermore, since 3D printed components often have complex geometries that are challenging to machine, HIP allows them to be processed to near-net shapes without the need for extensive post-processing steps like machining or grinding. This not only saves costs but also streamlines the overall production process.

Apart from the essential benefits that HIP brings to 3D printed metal parts, the improved material properties achieved through HIP enable the use of new types of alloys or combinations of materials that were previously considered unsuitable for specific applications. This opens up new avenues for innovation in material science within the additive manufacturing sector.

The Wallwork Group is a thermal treatment and physical vapor deposition (PVD) processing organization offering a wide range of services, including heat treatments, vacuum brazing, and PVD coatings. The HIP Centre is part of Wallwork Group’s strategic investment to expand its thermal processing capabilities. With a total commitment of £20 million over five years, the Bury HIP Centre alone represents a £10 million investment. This expansion is a response to the growing demand in the 3D printing sector.

Quintus Technologies, on the other hand, is a global leader in high-pressure technology based in Sweden. With a specialization in the densification of advanced materials, sheet metal forming, and food and beverage processing, Quintus Technologies has established a strong presence worldwide. The company, which has been operational since 1953, employs 300 people and reported sales of SEK 1.2 billion in 2022. Quintus has delivered 1,900 high-pressure systems across various sectors, including energy, medical implants, aerospace, and automotive, and holds several patents in the field. As a key player in the HIP space, Quintus has increasingly expanded its role in 3D printing, collaborating with renowned AM users such as Sintavia and Burloak. For instance, Burloak has reported reduced lead times and improved quality control since incorporating in-house HIP, primarily for aluminum, titanium, and other materials.

The opening of the Wallwork Group’s HIP center in Bury, with state-of-the-art equipment from Quintus Technologies, signifies the growing importance of post-processing technologies in the 3D printing sector. With the ability to enhance the mechanical properties of 3D printed metal parts and enable the use of new materials, HIP is playing a crucial role in expanding the applications and capabilities of additive manufacturing. As metal AM continues to advance, the integration of HIP and other post-processing technologies will further drive innovation and provide new solutions for various industries.

Quintus Technologies, the industry leader in high pressure for over 70 years, is pleased to announce the establishment of the HIP Centre by Wallwork. With a solid understanding of the value of Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP) and a shared focus on customer-driven problem solving and long-term supplier partnerships, Wallwork is set to make a significant impact. The QIH 173L press, which will be used in the HIP Centre, is highly efficient at removing porosity from Additive Manufacturing (AM) parts made from metal powders, allowing them to fulfill their safety-critical potential.

While the use of HIP in the AM industry is widely recognized, its benefits extend to other sectors as well. The QIH 173L press will also serve industries such as castings, forgings, and subtractively engineered components, offering densification processes that enhance the mechanical properties of various materials. In fact, HIP is used to produce advanced ceramics and composite materials with superior mechanical properties, process medical implants, seal and encapsulate electronics, and manufacture parts for nuclear reactors and wind turbines.

The growth potential for HIP and post-processing in general is immense. According to the “Post-Processing for Additive Manufacturing: Market Analysis and Forecast” report from SmarTech Analysis, the post-processing boom is expected to reach $1.8 billion in revenues by 2031. This presents a significant opportunity for Quintus and other heat treatment companies to further expand their presence in the market.

To stay informed about the latest news and developments in the 3D printing industry, while also receiving information and offers from third party vendors, be sure to stay up-to-date. The post-processing boom is set to revolutionize the industry, and Quintus Technologies, along with other key players, is leading the way towards a brighter future.

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