With AM-Studio to the Printed Turbine Part

Since mid-2021, at Global Hydro, a provider of innovative waterpower technologies in demand worldwide, manufacturing has been done not “only” conventionally, but rather also additively. The entry into the industrial 3D metal printing has gone very well for the internationally-successful Upper Austrians and within a very brief period of time as well. They had chosen AM-Studio from CADS Additive for an additive manufacturing solution which, despite an enormous diversity of functions, can be nonetheless operated easily and intuitively.

Thanks to a strong partner network and currently twelve subsidiaries on three continents, the solution competence of Global Hydro has long been highly respected throughout the entire world. Currently, the export rate of the company founded in 2002 is at approx. 95 %. Particularly for the Kaplan, Pelton and Francis turbines in the 100 kW – 30 MW range, the Upper Austrians are considered to be the top contact persons who always deliver the highest quality. The surfaces of all manufactured products are inspected in accordance with the standards prescribed by DIN EN ISO 4287 as well as DIN EN ISO 3452-1. In addition, during the comprehensive quality checks, ultrasound and X-ray controls are used.

In order to be able to also manufacture even complex part geometries and individual replacement parts for older existing plants in a cost-efficient manner, the company initially invested in the fiscal year 2020/2021 in an additive manufacturing plant. With regards to the hardware, an SLM 500 Quad Selective Laser Melting Machine was chosen from SLM Solutions; for the software, AM-Studio from CADS Additive was selected. We have by no means namely followed “our company slogan of ‘Visionary Power, Wherever You Want’ only for existing paths, but rather we have always been open to new paths as well”, states Thomas Eder, Head of Production at Global Hydro, regarding this purchase which he regards as a perfect complement to the conventional production line.

With 3D Metal Printing, Save Delivery Time and Raw Material Costs

In contrast to many other users of AM-Studio, at Global Hydro, there are above all large-scale parts which are additively manufactured. For the modernization of a Swiss power plant that was constructed in 1949, for example, new water drain troughs were designed and customized for the turbine runners – and this was done within merely eight weeks. “To mill these system-relevant core parts from full materials would have completely exceeded both the time window provided for this refurbishment as well as also the cost parameters agreed with the end customer owing to the tight raw material situation. Thus, we decided to merge customary flame-cut parts with printed contoured brass to form two welded assembly units which weigh a total of respectively 340 kilograms”, remembers Thomas Eder about an order for which a total of 500 kilograms of high-grade steel powder were fused together.

In order to immediately be able to create the desired three-dimensional curved forms during the initial run-up, the Mühlviertel residents relied on a pre-deformation tool which has been standardly integrated into AM-Studio. This determines, via a finite-element calculation, how “contorted” a part must be intentionally printed so that it ultimately will come out of the machine fulfilling the respective requirements.

AM-Studio is a very intelligent software which ensures self-explanatory graphical user guidance and countless automatisms running in the background so that one can very quickly obtain a finished part from a 3D design. After three days of training, we were far enough along that we were able to use the software without external support. CADS Additive’s flexibility and its solution-oriented mind-set in conjunction with our highly-motivated team at Global Hydro have led to a fast and successful integration of the 3D metal printing into our manufacturing processes.

Thomas Eder, Head of Production at Global Hydro

You Can Rely on AM-Studio’s Numeracy

CADS Additive’s solution-oriented approach which Thomas Eder previously mentioned is reflected in the numerous user-friendly details in AM-Studio itself. Thus, for example, in the support library, in addition to the standard support geometries of block, rod and line with the tree as well as with the adaptive cell support, two special types of support are provided by means of which substantial savings can be attained with regards to construction time and materials. There is even an AI-guided function which can also be learned for each part to be manufactured and which consequently recommends the “right” support in a fully-automated fashion after several repetitions.

An additional innovative self-development from CADS Additive also spares materials: The algorithmic support. This ensures that more support structure is built exclusively in those areas where it is actually needed owing to poorer heat transport or owing to acute “looming danger”. However, the actual centerpiece of our additive manufacturing solution is a high-end build processor. With its numeracy, even highly-complex geometries attain perfect form in record time”, emphasizes Daniel Plos, Sales Director at CADS Additive while definitively highlighting the impressive slicing and hatching capabilities of AM-Studio. However, in the case of Global Hydro, it was necessary to also conduct preliminary calculations regarding the expected deformation tendencies of the material being used. Finally, the printed parts had to be inserted precisely in a custom-fit manner into a system-relevant welding assembly unit for the new turbine runners.

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