Q&A Session with ExOne
The ExOne Company (Nasdaq:XONE) is a global provider of three-dimensional printing machines and printed products to industrial customers, recently opened a new Production Service Center (PSC) in Auburn, Washington, USA, near Tacoma.
To be cost-competitive and with sufficient customer demand in the Puget Sound region, the Company opened an 11,600 square foot leased facility, in which it will print molds and cores for foundries in the northwestern U.S. corridor. This marks ExOne’s fourth PSC in the U.S. and sixth PSC worldwide.
In view of the newly opened PSC, AMazing® is pleased to present the following Q&A session with Sean Sutterfield, General Manager of ExOne Northwest.
AMazing®: Sean, thank you for participating in this Q&A session. We understand the newly opened Auburn production service center (PSC) will additively manufacture sand casting molds and cores for foundries in the northwestern United States. How long has ExOne been in the business of 3D Printing sand casting molds and cores?
ExOne: ExOne has been in the business of printing sand molds and cores, as well as developing machines to perform those capabilities since 2003, when our company was known as ProMetal RCT.
AMazing®: Would you please explain the basic process for 3D Printing of sand casting molds and cores?
ExOne: This advanced manufacturing process starts with a CAD file that conveys information about how the finished product is supposed to look. The CAD file is then sent to a specialized printer where the product is created by the repeated laying of finely powdered material (including sand, metal and glass) and binder to gradually build the finished product.
Since it works in a similar fashion to an office printer laying ink on paper, this process is often referred to as 3D printing. The 3D printers can create a vast range of products, including parts for use in airplanes and automobiles, to replacing aging or broken industrial equipment, or for precise components for medical needs.
AMazing®: We understand that mold lead times utilizing 3D Printing are significantly less than those associated with conventional mold-making. Why are the lead times less? What is a typical mold lead time?
ExOne: While mold times vary based on the alloy being poured and what foundry it’s being poured, the reduction of the necessary manual labor in traditional processes enable for a reduction in time.
For example, the Department of the Navy turned to ExOne to help reduce the production time for a vacuum cone casting in submarines, which traditional mold makers were quoting at 51 weeks. Using our additive manufacturing process, we were able to deliver the final castings in just eight weeks, while cutting the cost by more than $11,000 per unit. Since everything was created digitally, we didn’t need to wait for a traditional pattern to be manufactured.
AMazing®: What other advantages does 3D Printing of sand casting molds and cores offer over conventional mold and core making?
ExOne: Production of the sand molds and cores is driven directly from the CAD data, so there is no need to produce a pattern as an intermediate step.
Warehousing costs can be reduced dramatically since every pattern can be stored on a USB drive rather than on shelves in a warehouse. Not only that, but the additive manufacturing process truly offers complete design freedom.
Elaborate, thin wall, delicate or lacy cores can be produced as a single piece, something not normally achievable with traditional manufacturing.
Designers have the ability to create multiple iterations by editing the digital file to determine the optimal mold/core design.
AMazing®: When designing sand casting molds and cores for 3D Printing, how different is the mindset compared to designing sand casting molds and cores for conventional manufacturing?
ExOne: The process is completely unique in that it offers complete design freedom. The limitations that are presented by traditional processes, specifically the need for a pattern to cast a part, are eliminated with additive manufacturing.
AMazing®: Has the design team at the new PSC had an opportunity to 3D Print a mold and/or core that could not be manufactured using conventional casting methods?
ExOne: As we are just recently opened the Auburn facility in October, we have not had the opportunity yet, but based on the work coming out of our other PSCs across the globe, I anticipate we will have the chance soon.
AMazing®: What types of metals can be cast?
ExOne: We can typically pour every alloy with the exception of Titanium due to its extremely high pouring temperature.
AMazing®: What is a typical mold and lot size? What is the largest mold size that can be printed?
ExOne: Our S-Max Printer has a printable area of 70” x 39” x 27” – the largest on the market today – but that does not limit the size of mold we can produce. With CAD, we can interlock large sand molds with a tongue and grove type mechanism and produce castings as large as 57” in diameter.
AMazing®: Shifting to jobs in the additive manufacturing field, what types of jobs has ExOne brought to the Auburn area?
ExOne: We are still in a “ramp-up” phase in Auburn, so we currently have one Production Leader at the facility. As production increases, we will bring on more personnel.
AMazing®: If someone is interested in a career in additive manufacturing, what types of skills, education and/or training are needed? Where may an individual obtain the necessary education and/or training?
ExOne: Strong CAD design skills, creativity and attention to detail are very important in the industry. Several community colleges in the area offer instruction on AutoCAD, Solid Edge, SolidWorks and other CAD software for individuals wishing to pursue a career in additive manufacturing.
AMazing®: Finally, what is the future of 3D Printing of sand casting molds and cores? What advances will we see five years from now?
ExOne: The benefits for using additive manufacturing continue to improve – in the past five years alone we’ve seen staggering increases in both build sizes and speed of production, with similar decreases in the price to product of each unit, so there’s no telling what improvements will come over the next five years.
ExOne continues to push the limits of our processes, redefining what can be accomplished with additive manufacturing across a number of industries. As designers and manufacturers continue to embrace the additive process for creating large-scale, complex industrial parts, you will see innovation that was never before possible take place.
AMazing®: This concludes our interview. Thank you very much Sean for your participation and bringing awareness of ExOne’s exciting developments in Auburn, Washington. And special thanks to Christina Binz of BM, as Q&A session sponsor.
About Sean Sutterfield
Sean Sutterfield is the General Manager of ExOne Northwest. He has been with ExOne (formerly part of Extrude Hone) since 2003. Sean has served in various positions within the company including Project Manager, Production Manager, and Regional Manager. Prior to employment with ExOne, Sean spent 10 years serving in the United States Navy. Sean earned his degree from Olympic College in Bremerton, Washington.
With decades of manufacturing experience and significant investment in research and product development, ExOne has pioneered the evolution of nontraditional manufacturing. This investment has yielded a new generation of rapid production technology in the field of additive manufacturing as well as advanced micromachining processes.
Our process solutions give manufacturers the freedom to produce objects that have virtually unlimited design complexity. We collaborate with our clients through the entire development and production process so that they are able to “materialize” new concepts — designs, prototypes, and production parts — precisely when needed. Production scale is irrelevant and lot quantities of one are just as efficient as lot quantities of one thousand. We offer both the services and the equipment to enable point-of-use manufacturing using additive manufacturing processes.
We support the use of traditional industrial strength materials ranging from metals to ceramics to glass, all used in revolutionary ways. Our full range of offerings also includes services and equipment for fabricating on a “micro” scale, which enables machining of small features with precision and speed. ExOne is the optimal partner for any industrial manufacturer who is transitioning their manufacturing business to the digital age.
For more information regarding ExOne’s operations, visit the Company’s website at www.exone.com.
ExOne The Americas
127 Industry Boulevard
N. Huntingdon, PA 15642 USA
+1 877 773 9663
+1 724 863 9663
Am Mittleren Moos 41
+49 (0) 821 7476 0
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