An update on Wayland Additive’s NeuBeam metal 3D printing technology

Wayland Additive’s flagship metal additive manufacturing platform was officially introduced in March 2021, with a physical launch event held at its Yorkshire headquarters two months later. The company has come to market equipped with NeuBeam technology, which it believes to have significant advantages over other electron beam additive offerings.

In launching its Calibur3 metal additive manufacturing system, Wayland joined the likes of JEOL, Freemelt and pioneering company Arcam in the electron beam 3D printing sector. It is Wayland’s belief that electron beam 3D printing has been held back by only having one supplier for so long, and so believes the uptick in competition to be healthy.

“It’s nice to see five [companies] banging the drum about E-beam,” Wayland Additive Business Development Director Pete Hansford told TCT at TCT 3Sixty. “Maybe that will make people take notice of E-beam as a technology. We are obviously biased and think E-beam has longer legs in it than laser-based systems, with some advantages to having an E-beam system. And then in terms of competition, we’re all slightly different. I think we’re the only one with the charge neutralisation, so we are on our own, in some respects, which is our advantage. But we still have to prove ourselves. We still have to walk the talk.”

As Wayland begins that process of proving itself, TCT sought to understand where the company is up to in terms of sales, shipments and collaborations.

What’s the latest on the sales and shipment of Wayland’s Calibur3 machine?

In May 2021, the company announced the first sale of its Calibur3 platform to Canadian engineering consultancy firm Exergy Solutions.

That machine was scheduled to be shipped last week, with a second installation at an unnamed military customer set for August and a third machine remaining at Wayland’s facility. Following the first three confirmed sales (which does not include the machine set to be installed at EWI in the US – more on that below), Wayland is now aiming to build six more Calibur3 machines this year, with more installations targeted for October and November.

Is the company planning to ramp up production?

Yes. Wayland claims it is sitting on a sales pipeline that could be worth around 50 million GBP, with some customers interested in purchasing the Calibur3 ‘for the technology capability or potential’ and others because ‘it’s actually serving a purpose.’ At the time of writing, the plan is for Wayland to manufacture 12 units in 2023.

Exergy Solutions is the first named customer. Why did Exergy Solutions choose Wayland?

Exergy Solutions is one of those companies who has invested in the Calibur3 machine for its potential, rather than for a killer application it has already identified. The company was on the lookout for a metal 3D printing technology that could process carbon steel materials, first assessing binder jet technologies and eventually turning to E-beam technologies when landing on VBN Components’ Vibenite materials. When evaluating which provider of an E-beam technology to work with, Exergy is said to have preferred a start-up company as opposed to an established name.

“They chose Wayland because of the difference in the new technology,” Hansford told TCT. “And they also chose us because we were a start-up and therefore willing to be flexible and do things beyond the norm and they thought they’d get better face to face service from us. In effect, they wanted to deal with a small company who would be agile and respond to their needs.”

What do we know about Calibur3’s capabilities?

Wayland’s Calibur3 is powered by NeuBeam technology, which has been developed to neutralise the charging issues typical of electron beam processes to create parts that are free of residual stresses. This is enabled because hot temperatures are applied only to the powder that will make up the components being printed, rather than the entire powder bed. Wayland describes this as a hot part process, as opposed to a hot bed process.

With this ‘hot part’ process, Wayland is able to ensure the part stays hot because it is insulated within the powder bed, while also allowing for a quicker cool down rate. This means less energy is used during the print and, Wayland suspects, an improved quality of the powder that is reused because it should absorb less oxygen. “There’s lot of work for us to do to analyse what the real differences are, we just suspect that there’s an advantage, but we don’t know for sure,” Hansford said.

Other capabilities of the Calibur3 system are bed/part temperatures up to 1000°C, a 5kW electron beam energy source, a claimed ability to reach densities of up to 99.98% with Ti64, and in-process monitoring that provides real-time monitoring for full traceability and layer wise quality assurance.

The machine also boasts interchangeable build volumes of 100 x 100 x 150 mm; 300 x 300 x 450 mm; and 450 x 450 x 450 mm (available from Sept 2022).

What materials can NeuBeam work with?

Wayland Additive has come to market with an agnostic approach to materials, preferring to allow customers to deal with their existing materials suppliers. In terms of qualification of materials for the Calibur3, however, the roadmap is expected to start with Ti64, followed by Vibenite 290, before looking at nickel-based superalloys and other exotic grades. There is also a pure tungsten project ongoing.

“The problem is bandwidth and machines,” Hansford noted. “Until we’ve got a number of machines and the people to run them, we’re just going to have to walk into this. We’re prioritising the materials that we’re working on based on who’s enquiring. That’s driving the need.”

What industries is Wayland targeting?

Primarily, Wayland placed its focus in aerospace and military applications, with medical next on the list. In medical, Wayland is engaging with partners, recognising the long road to getting approvals, while also talking to existing E-beam users within the medical space who may be interested in open platform as opposed to the locked system they currently run. Oil and gas and power generation is another sector Wayland anticipates a strong play in, though the company is opting to be ‘reactive rather than proactive’ when it comes to automotive.

“We haven’t actively engaged [with automotive],” Hansford explained. “Now, through other partners, such as Fraunhofer IPK, we have had some engagement with BMW, for instance, but very preliminary stuff. What we need is to expose the technology and people to understand who we are and where we are. Branding and messaging has got us so far, but there’s two of us on the commercial side [of the business] and we are coping with enquiries rather than being proactive. We’ve created a pipeline, which is pretty good, but we haven’t actively gone and tried to find anybody else.”

Why has Wayland partnered with EWI?

The Memorandum of Understanding between EWI and Wayland has come about to identify commercial and governmental projects in the United States that could benefit from the Calibur3D metal additive system. As an engineering consultancy, EWI has a membership programme, of which some companies are said to have been looking at Wayland’s technology independently of EWI. A lot of this interest is believed to be coming from military organisations.

By aligning with EWI, Wayland is to install a Calibur3 machine in its Buffalo Manufacturing Works facility, which will provide access to Wayland’s technology for interested parties in the States. Through this arrangement, the Calibur3 could be used to provide solutions in one-off projects or, Wayland hopes, lead to sales of its technology. EWI also has personnel in house that worked on development of the first Ti64 powder parameters for Arcam’s E-beam technology.

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