Duncan Machine Products Flips the Switch on AM

Precision machine shop is turning to the VELO3D Sapphire support-free metal AM system to usher in a new era of high-quality production.

Precision machine shop is turning to the VELO3D Sapphire support-free metal AM system to usher in a new era of high-quality production.

Sapphire’s support-free metal AM approach gives Duncan Machine Products greater control while accelerating production of high-quality parts. Image Courtesy of VELO3D


Chris Billings, a self-described manufacturing geek, has kept his eye on additive manufacturing for years looking for just the right technology that would help accelerate delivery times and boost quality for parts produced by his precision machining company.

Duncan Machine Products (DMP) manufacturers parts and assemblies for companies in the oil and gas and aerospace sectors. For the most part, the firm contracts with third-party companies to build parts through traditional casting methods while using a smattering of AM technology to do plastic prototyping of in-house fixtures. That changed when Billings came across VELO3D’s Sapphire laser powder bed fusion metal 3D printer at a trade show in 2018. Not only was the printer capable of handling parts with highly sophisticated, low-angle geometries, it was built from the ground up for high-volume manufacturing applications. The bonus: The printer is tightly integrated with workflow and quality assurance software that streamlines production and ensures the highest levels of part integrity, Billings says.

Being able to 3D print parts in house rather than sending jobs out gives Duncan Machine Products far more flexibility and control over its processes, Billings explains. In addition, the metal AM process is more consistent than casting methods, which are prone to mistakes and quality issues. “Oftentimes, we have a pretty high scrap rate on investment casting,” he says. “By replacing casting with additive manufacturing processes, we were able to get better results and faster lead times at the same cost with better quality.”

From a features and function stand point, the Sapphire printer’s non-contact recoater was a game changer for Duncan Machine Products because it removes a lot of variability in the process. The printer also has a unique ability to print low angles and overhangs down to zero degrees along with large diameters and inner tubes up to 100mm without need for supports—a capability that significantly reduces post processing time.

Sapphire’s laser powder bed fusion metal 3D printer is designed from the ground up for high-volume manufacturing of geometrically-complex parts. Image Courtesy of VELO3D

Sapphire’s laser powder bed fusion metal 3D printer is designed from the ground up for high-volume manufacturing of geometrically-complex parts. Image Courtesy of VELO3D.

The printer’s Assure quality assurance and control system was another big benefit, Billings says. The software delivers visibility into every layer of the build using real-time, multi-sensor, physics-based excursion detection algorithms—essential for ensuring part integrity. In-Situ defect detection, detailed build reports, and real-time monitoring and alerts also helps the company track and document quality, which is critical given the regulatory requirements of many of its oil and gas and aerospace clients.

“One of the issues with AM is you have to prove everything,” he explains. “The Assure system gives us the ability to monitor all the processes and provide documentation at the end of the build for every operation that has transpired.”

Watch this video to see the Sapphire’s support-free metal AM approach in action.

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Beth Stackpole

Beth Stackpole is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to [email protected].

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