MetalXL – User Story
Whittaker Engineering (Scotland)
The benefits of MetalXL for the production of complex components in the energy industry.
Established in 1983, Whittaker Engineering are a metalworking company headquartered in Stonehaven, Scotland, with more than 160 employees based in the UK and Mexico. Whittaker Engineering offers quality turn-key manufacturing, design, and engineering solutions for the global Energy & Renewables industries including offshore construction projects. Specializing in welding and CNC milling of oil and gas sector parts, the company have been using Robotic Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) technology since 2016 to overcome the growing lead times for cast and forged metal components.
Scott Macdonald, robotic welding engineer and additive manufacturing leader at Whittaker Engineering, implemented the process in-house with a KUKA robot linked to a Fronius CMT welding plant. During the first year, initial tests revealed a major issue with WAAM at the time: the lack of a complete workflow for WAAM to get from design to print in a controlled manner. The first prints were made by manually coding the welding robot in order to print simple shapes and test coupons, in order to qualify the process for their activities and create use cases.
The following year, the need for printing complex shapes for real applications arose. The team started using toolpath planning software that was not dedicated to additive manufacturing (e.g. subtractive manufacturing path planner), but the lack of process control still resulted in a non-optimal process. After hearing about MX3D through big WAAM projects such as the MX3D Bridge and Arc Bikes, Scott chose to connect their setup to MetalXL. “Discussing some of the use cases we wanted to print, they showed us the ease of use and flexibility of MetalXL through a live demo with applications we had in mind”.
The installation of MX3D’s MetalXL solution, including both software and integrated control system with the sensor network, to the KUKA and Fronius setup and training the team at Whittaker Engineering by MX3D’s WAAM engineers, took only 3 days to work autonomously with the advanced WAAM setup.
Scott and his team now work on both the production of components and R&D around use cases and applications that benefit from the WAAM process: flanges, pipes, pressure equipment, etc. Because of the diverse applications of Whittaker Engineering in the energy, offshore, and oil & gas industries, they anticipate working with a variety of metal alloys, including Inconels, Stainless Steels or Duplex Steels. They already have customers for these printed components, as well as research partnerships for developing around the process.
Whittaker Engineering is now able to produce components more effectively with the WAAM-dedicated CAM interface, and efficiently with the live process monitoring and print analytics of MetalXL
“The understanding of welding science by MX3D and its application into MetalXL led to the possibility of printing complex components without defects such as lacks of fusions, that we often had using non-optimal subtractive manufacturing path planners”, says Scott. The MetalXL Live interface was a game changer for the team, who are now able to monitor and control the WAAM process in real-time at high resolution: “The fact that we can get feedback on the process is an important advancement, especially being able to control the interpass temperature”.
You can follow Scott and his team at Whittaker Engineering on LinkedIn, where they frequently share their prints and progress on advanced robotic 3D metal printing.
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