Norsk Titanium, a metal additive manufacturing (AM) company based in Norway, announced that the company has made its first commercial delivery of parts for the semiconductor market. Using its patented directed energy deposition (DED) platform, Norsk is printing 80-kilogram (about 176 pounds) near-net-shape preforms — used for semiconductor wafer production — out of Ti64.
Norsk worked with Dutch partner Hittech Group to develop the preform, which, according to Norsk, is used in ASML’s lithography system. ASML, also based in the Netherlands, has been one of the world’s most frequently discussed companies in the context of the chip shortages over the last few years. Specifically, ASML is most well-known for producing the world’s only extreme ultraviolet (EUV) photolithography machines.
Also according to Norsk, its successful development of the 3D printed preform has allowed it to take market-share from “a legacy forged plate producer.” The company says that its preform saves 140 kg (308 pounds) of raw materials, or 64 percent, when compared to preforms produced with conventional manufacturing.
Although the first preforms were finished at Norsk’s R&D center in Norway, routine production of the product will take place at its AM facility in upstate Platsburgh, NY. Notably, when the site was originally announced, in 2016, it was touted as “the world’s first” industrial-scale 3D printing facility for the aerospace sector, which has historically been the main constituent of Norsk’s customer base. Early in 2021, for instance, the company delivered 3D printed titanium components to Boeing, for use in the 787 Dreamliner.
In a press release about its successful delivery of the 3D printed preforms, the VP of Norsk’s commercial division, Nicholas Mayer, commented, “We are seeing that customers in all markets are looking for alternatives to their legacy titanium suppliers. With this delivery we have demonstrated that Norsk Titanium can deliver shorter lead times and offer an alternative to titanium raw materials suppliers that may be experiencing disruptions in today’s environment. Norsk Titanium is delivering a sustainable alternative to legacy forgings that is compatible with existing Ti64 material specifications and production methods. As we expand production in our core aerospace and industrial markets, we continue to prove the value our additive solution brings to our customers.”
It would be virtually impossible in one post, to unpack all of the macro trends that have been seamlessly woven together by this single project (in addition to the already-mentioned chip shortages). Nevertheless, to start with some of the most obvious trends, there are reshoring and the awfully-named “friendshoring”, of which this is, interestingly, a case of both. It is friendshoring because the product was developed and produced in the NATO member-state of Norway, and reshoring because the commercial manufacturing will take place in the US.
Further, it is an example of building up American manufacturing capacity in a critical sector. The dire situation of the American manufacturing labor pool — a situation that it’s hard to believe is truly news to anyone — has recently been in the news again, as it is a variable that is apparently making it quite difficult for the Biden administration to deliver on its “Buy American” initiatives.
Finally, it is an example of the crossover between manufacturing for the transportation sector and tech. Along with all other sectors related to heavy industry manufacturing, the inflow of newly laid-off tech workers to transport will be one of the major labor themes of 2023. Resultantly, companies like Norsk could be in the best position to fight the constraints of a labor market that still shows little sign that it will loosen any time soon.
Images courtesy of Norsk Titanium