Additive manufacturing (AM) has the potential to change the entire manufacturing enterprise by 2030. Substantial progress has been made in recent years; however, there are several remaining challenges hindering the widespread industry adoption: (1) the need for an expanded range of feedstock metal materials; (2) the need for health and safety criteria for handling AM metal powders; (3) the need for faster build rates and greater build volumes; (4) the need for increased process repeatability and reliability; (5) the need for better part surface quality; (6) the need for quality education on design practices; and (6) the need for uniform standards for the certification of AM parts.
The NSERC/CFI Holistic Innovation in Additive Manufacturing (HI-AM) Network has been conceived to work on innovative solutions to address these challenges and to equip Canada for the era of Industry 4.0 and “digital-to-physical conversion.” With major investment from NSERC and CFI, the Network will investigate fundamental scientific issues associated with AM pre-fabrication, fabrication, and post-fabrication processing. It enables collaboration between Canada’s leading research groups in advanced materials processing and characterization, powder synthesis, alloy development, advanced process simulation and modeling, precision tool-path planning, controls, sensing, and applications.
The University of Waterloo hosts the NSERC HI-AM Network, bringing together nineteen leading experts from seven universities across Canada. These researchers and their teams share ideas, innovations, and access to the necessary advanced research infrastructure and devices essential for holistic AM experiments.
HI-AM’s fourteen initial private sector partners demonstrate the broad impact potential of AM technology and the need for a collaborative approach. These partners include natural resource and energy firms, tooling and part repair specialists, and software developers, as well as major aerospace, automotive, and biomedical device manufacturers. These research-driven partnerships will ensure Network results are directly applicable to manufacturing in Canada and globally, so innovations can be rapidly transferred to, and implemented by industry.
HI-AM is the first national academic additive manufacturing initiative in Canada. The timing is critical, with the global market for AM expected to quintuple by 2020. The proposed Network builds the partnerships, develops the intellectual property, and trains the highly skilled individuals Canada needs to compete in this crucial arena of advanced manufacturing.
Benefits to Canada and Partners
Economic Benefits: These research outcomes will lead to numerous economic impacts, including: (a) reduction in manufacturing costs in terms of material and equipment utilization, (b) reduction of the time to market due to improvements in the mechanical properties and consistency of AM-made parts and (c) facilitation of the rapid adoption of AM products and processes across manufacturing sectors, increasing business and market potential nationally and internationally.
In the aerospace sector, Canadian companies occupy critical positions within the global supply chains of original equipment manufacturers and their tier-one partners. Facilitating a more rapid implementation of AM for this sector is key to maintaining Canada’s competitiveness given that aerospace multi-national enterprises (MNEs) are now capitalizing on AM for a range of in-flight components. The research outcomes will also have a positive, long-term impact on major national AM initiatives of vested aerospace interest currently active in Canada (e.g. development of AM for lightweight structures, light metal processing, and high temperature alloys among many others). The research outcomes will strategically support the technology development and knowledge needed to underpin the future deployment of AM within Canadian aerospace SMEs and MNEs.
The national deployment of AM technologies facilitated by HI-AM will support the introduction and adoption of cutting-edge manufacturing technology in the tooling and automotive sectors thereby having a decisive impact on the growth and profitability of this sector. Having tools designed with functionally tailored properties will be facilitated by AM, yielding a value-added product for the manufacturer and, concomitantly, reduced downtime and significant cost savings to the end users. Moreover, the innovative repair pathways opened by AM will create a capability to salvage expensive tools after excessive wear and/or damage resulting in reduction of waste and economic improvement, key factors in sector sustainability. HI-AM will have an important role in the adoption of AM in the energy, biomedical, resources and defense sectors too. All these sectors are of tremendous importance for Canada’s GDP.