Alejandro Silva
Director General
Renishaw
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View from the Top

Revolutionary 3-D Tech Slowly Finds Its Place

Thu, 09/01/2016 - 13:04

Q: Why hasn’t additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, caught on yet with manufacturers?

A: At the moment additive manufacturing is more expensive than alternatives. Depending on the material used and the overall process, 3-D printing can increase manufacturing prices two to fourfold. The process is not yet mature enough to be convenient for every project but it does complement traditional manufacturing.

Eventually, though, 3-D printing will be seen as a revolutionary technique just as semiconductors were in the ‘60s. Some manufacturers are joining forces with technology giants such as Apple and Google to develop a new 3-D printing file program that will even provide color. The technology has existed for over 20 years, yet it is only now finding a place in manufacturing. It still requires a certain level of programing knowledge but it will eventually be simplified, perhaps in the next 10 or 20 years. New 3-D printing technologies are being developed with different materials and Renishaw has developed processes with stainless steel, cobbled chrome, titanium and aluminum.

Q: What is Renishaw doing to bring 3-D printing into the mainstream?

A: Renishaw is building several additive manufacturing solution centers around the world. We plan to eventually have offices in the Asia-Pacific region, Canada and the US, including Chicago and Dallas. We hope that also leads to a branch in Mexico. Our goal is to bring 3-D printing closer to our clients by generating user-friendly methods.

We also are developing technologies to make our machines faster and to lower production costs. At Expo Manufactura 2016 the company presented the Renishaw AM250 and the recently launched RenAM 500M. This latter product is a 3-D printing machine designed for the manufacturing industry that automatically recycles unused powder. It is fast, presents a lower initial cost and is useful both for R&D and manufacturing. Our solution centers can provide many financial options through joint ventures or credits for companies that want to update their equipment. No other company in additive manufacturing is doing anything similar.

Q: What new technology is Renishaw introducing to the market and what are your goals?

A: Industrial metrology has always been Renishaw’s main pillar. We are a worldwide reference especially in probe heads, engaging and calibration systems for quality assurance. Renishaw is able to provide unique services such as Revo, a five-axis measurement system that can measure an infinite number of points 10 times faster than any other solution in the market. This translates to an increased throughput in terms of measurement, a reduced operations cycle and essentially the analysis of more parts. We have invested in local infrastructure and will begin to collaborate with local academia and research centers to build our solution centers. We are also increasing our presence globally and expect to secure a larger market share in 2016.

We hope that by the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017, we will be able to move into our new facilities in Nuevo Leon, which will provide full onsite subsidiary support to our entire Central American market. These facilities will introduce our full production capabilities in additive manufacturing to Monterrey and allow us to showcase our entire product line in industrial metrology, medical and mining manufacturing, marine and scientific research. This also will allow us to offer Renishaw’s broad range of solutions to customers in the automotive and aerospace sectors.

Q: How has your interaction with customers evolved through the years?

A: We have to ensure that all processes are done and inspected to perfection and that they correlate to ISO standards. Renishaw measures and tests parts but it also approaches customers with possible solutions to improve these parts. Offering this to clients requires a large amount of resources and engineering power, which we have both here and in the UK.