TCT AsiaChina’s largest 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing (AM) Event returns to Shanghai 12-14th September. This event will bring the latest developments as well as the largest machine manufacturers in one of the fastest growing markets for AM.
Bright Laser Technologies (BLT), the Xi’an-headquartered metal AM specialist, is one such company. In the last year alone, BLT has launched a number of new machines, most recently its five-laser BLT-A400 for large-scale batch production of industrial parts, supported a successful rocket launch mission with its metal 3D printed components, and reported its “strongest ever” year to date with machines now sold into over 20 countries.
Eliza Duan from Bright Laser Technologies, the Head of Overseas Business, spoke with TCT ahead of the event about how metal AM can be made possible in’millions’ of factories, additive manufacturing of rocket engine components and their ambitions to continue growth.
Visit BLT’s booth #H31 at TCT Asia.
TCT: What will BLT bring to the TCT Asia this year in Shanghai?
ED: BLT’s vision is to “Make Manufacturing Easier” and two years ago we introduced “The Era of Mass Production”, with a focus on metal additive batch production. Our goal is to lower the barrier to adopting metal 3D-printing and make it available to millions of factories. We adhere to the principle, “Make it possible, Make it affordable”. BLT will showcase the latest batch manufacturing solutions in the industrial sector during TCT Asia, which takes place in Shanghai. These solutions include an automated powder circulation system and large format additive manufacturing. The BLT-MES system for production line management is also included. In addition, we’ll bring dozens exhibits that cover aviation, aerospace and mold and die applications as well as medical, electronic and other applications. The latest exhibits, which will be revealed for the first on-site time, are sure to delight.
What is the biggest trend that you see in the AM industry?
ED: Additive Manufacturing is expected to be one of three main manufacturing processes. Additive manufacturing is a relatively new manufacturing process. Its integration with digital technology allows for the customization of products as well as the production of structural components. It can be as important as subtractive and equal material manufacturing.
The technology and equipment for additive manufacturing are evolving to be low-cost, reliable, efficient, and intelligent. Additive Manufacturing Technology plays a growing role in revolutionising manufacturing, helping to transform and upgrade the manufacturing industry as well as enhancing resilience and safety levels of industrial and supply chain.
TCT: Could you tell us about a successful application by a customer recently?
ED: Dongfang Space, an independent company, developed in March a gas generator to support the “Force-85”, which is a 100-ton liquid-oxygen kerosene-powered motor. This engine has successfully passed its first test run. The “Force 85 engine” is the world’s first 100-ton liquid oxygen kerosene engine to use pin bolts. BLT was involved in the development of the “Force-85”, printing key components like the engine blank and pin-type generator. These components’ quality and performance have a major impact on the performance of the engine. Beijing Star Glory Space Technology Co. Ltd. successfully conducted two semi-systems joint tests on the 100-ton liquid-oxygen-methane-rocket engine “JD-2”. BLT provided assistance to the development team by printing multiple parts of the “JD-2 liquid engine” including turbopumps and pipelines. This helped customers save money and increase efficiency.
In July, BLT’s Additive Manufacturing enabled the successful launch of the world’s first liquid oxygen-methane rocket. BLT conducted a detailed analysis of the conditions of use for several parts and chose materials like stainless steel or superalloys to achieve the required mechanical properties. Machines such as the BLT S310 or BLT S400 were used to manufacture parts.
BLT also began expanding its shoe moulding operations as early as 2019. It has recently formed a strategic alliance with a large Sinoforeign joint venture to promote the use of metal 3-D printing technology within the shoemaking industry. BLT supplies metal 3D-printing technology and high-end machinery for international brands that our client produces.
TCT: BLT recently opened its new R&D Center in Shanghai. What are the goals of this facility?
ED: BLT’s Shanghai R&D Center emphasises on electronics, smart devices, industrial machinery, civil drones, commercial aerospace, moulds, new energy, and robotics applications.
The official opening will further enhance BLT’s application development capabilities in the East China region, promote in-depth exchanges with users, and mark an important step in further developing BLT’s R&D and innovation capabilities, leading the manufacturing industry to upgrade and innovate, making manufacturing easier.
TCT: BLT introduced several new machines in the past 12 months, among them the 12-laser BLT S1000 system. Where does this demand for multi-laser, large-format metal AM systems come from?
ED: The advantages of additive manufacturing are particularly valuable in industries such as aerospace, automotive, energy, and medical, where there is a growing demand for large-size, lightweight, and optimised components.For example, BLT’s large-format metal AM systems (like a 10-laser BLT-S800, and a 12-laser BLT-S1000) are being used to produce structural components like turbine blades, engine casings, and aircraft brackets. The parts can have complex cooling channels and lattice structures to improve performance while reducing their weight. Multi-laser manufacturing systems can produce multiple components in one build, which improves productivity. As 1st and only qualified supplier in Asia for manufacturing of Airbus flying parts, BLT also offers a part production service for Airbus with our own large-format, multi-laser metal systems.
TCT: Like many industries, the AM sector has experienced turbulence over the last few years – What’s your outlook on the future of the industry in 2023?
ED: The additive manufacturing industry is now experiencing explosive growth. The additive manufacturing industry has grown rapidly with the improvements in technology maturity, cost reductions, and increased industrial support capacity.).
This emerging market is constantly attracting new businesses and services in fields such as aviation, aerospace and navigation, energy, rail transit, automotive, electronic industry, mould making, healthcare and others.
Some companies have integrated additive manufacturing equipment in their production lines to partially realise mixed-line production and improve market competitiveness on the basis of production efficiency, flexibility, and quality control.
BLT had a record year in 2022 with a revenue increase of 66.3%. The company’s sales reached US $140,000,000. BLT sold thousands of metal 3D printers to countries all over the world by 2022.
BLT is planning a series of actions to increase capacity in 2023 and meet the global demand for technologies that enable additive manufacturing.
BLT released its performance forecast on July 29. The results were a dramatic improvement over the previous year. The company is expecting to earn an operating profit of USD 61.5 million. That’s an increase of USD 22.8 million year-on year, and an impressive USD 40.7 million growth compared to last year.
In May, BLT officially broke ground on its Phase IV facilities expansion project in Xi’an, China. Upon completion of Phase IV in 2025, BLT’s headquarters will reach a size of 410,000㎡. In June, BLT opened its new R&D Center in Shanghai.
TCT – What is special about the Chinese additive manufacturing industry?
ED: China’s continued growth in the additive manufacturing sector is not just a testament of the market’s resilience, but also a sign of the technology and innovation to come.
Throughout the years, I’ve summed up several characteristics.
The industry is growing. The additive manufacturing market has grown rapidly in China in recent years. Metal additive manufacturing is widely used in aerospace, biomedical and industrial moulds as well as power energy. China’s journey in additive manufacturing over the last decade has seen the output value increase to over 4 billion US dollars by the year 2022. The growth rate is 32% per annum, and this is 10% more than global average. (Source: Additive Manufacturers Alliance of China).
The competitiveness and efficiency of additive manufacturing machines is increasing. The overall competitiveness in the industrial sector is fairly strong. Key indicators of the multi-laser bed powder bed fusion system, which was developed by BLT, have reached international advanced levels. BLT introduced its large-format BLT S1000 LPBF last year. It has a build chamber measuring 1200 x600 x 1500mm, and eight 500W lasers are standard. However, it can be upgraded to 12 lasers to achieve speeds of up to 300 cm3/h.
Additive manufacturing is a technology that has found wide application in many fields. In terms of application, additive manufacture was initially focused on creating prototypes and sample parts. It is now moving to the direct production and manufacturing of functional parts. Direct manufacturing of components and parts is growing in volume and is becoming more popular. Prototyping remains an important application area, but it is also becoming increasingly important. Additive manufacturing is used widely in the aerospace, medical and automotive industries. It covers product design, prototyping and mass production. BLT continues to be a pioneer in the application and use of additive production in various fields.