A wide range of people interested in 3D printing gathered at the FMT Days

The Future Manufacturing Technologies (FMT) research group of the Kerttu Saalasti Institute of the University of Oulu celebrated its 20th anniversary on 28.-29.5.2024 with the theme "3D printing of large parts". About sixty researchers, experts and entrepreneurs interested in the topic attended the event at the Nivala Technology Centre. The event highlighted the sense of community created by the ecosystem formed around this theme.
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The event was organised in cooperation between the FMT Group, the 3DTY 3D-Printing Collaboration project, the Implementation of DeD AM in future manufacturing - IDiD project and Nivala Industrial Park (Nivalan Teollisuuskylä).

"For several years now, I have been involved in cooperation projects with FMT, focusing especially on industrial robotics and laser welding. It was a pleasure to meet old colleagues again and make new contacts with 3D printing experts. The cooperation was not limited to the education sector, but also extended between schools and the business world," says Tero Haapakoski, who works in the 3DTY project at Tampere University of Applied Sciences.

Mikko Hietala, Project Manager of the IDiD project, was delighted with how widely the results of the project were presented to the public.

"Participants came from all over Finland. Especially the sense of community was particularly nice, and good discussions ensued. We also saw that the FAME ecosystem works well as a basis for research, development and innovation work," said FMT's Development Manager Kari Mäntyjärvi.

Mäntyjärvi was also pleased that the event highlighted both what is already known and where challenges and development needs exist.

"There were a lot of interesting speeches at the FMT Days. They showed that internationally significant development work with novelty value is carried out in Finland. It's great that we don't just talk about what we could do but present and show facts and results with numbers. We got to hear what is happening in different educational institutions around the topic and what kind of cooperation they are engaged in. The presentations confirmed that researchers and company experts are in close dialogue with each other. This discussion creates the value of concrete cooperation for both parties," said Eetu Holstein, Head of the FAME ecosystem.

Nivala region provides important support for operations

The FMT group began 20 years ago as a project of three researchers entitled "New methods in the sheet metal industry" and joined the ProMetal network competence centre of the Centre of Expertise programme, which had offices in Nivala, Tornio and Raahe. In two of the three locations, operations slowed down, but in Nivala operations developed and have expanded to 16 employees. There are currently four international researchers involved.

"At the beginning of the 2000s, during the busiest IT boom, the research group supported the development of production technology in the electronics industry in sheet metal technology, but we have updated our research themes and laboratories according to societal needs so that today FMT Group's resources for developing competitive business are stronger than ever," says Antti Järvenpää, Research Director of FMT Group.

According to Mäntyjärvi, the FMT Group communicates annually with about 50 different organisations. He especially praises the Nivala region's support for their activities.

"This area has provided not only financial support but also emotional support all the time. We have had advocates and encouragement, and then we have been able to cooperate with different parties. We have not had to think alone about how to develop this activity. At the moment, Nivala Industrial Park owns the premises and most of the equipment we use, and they have been involved in developing the operations," Mäntyjärvi says.

"Over the past 20 years, cooperation with the research group has contributed to enabling and lowering the threshold for local companies to adopt new technologies. From this point of view, future-oriented low-carbon production methods are important to our customers. Smooth project cooperation has enabled the development of the RDI environment for both research and experimental series use. In other words, cooperation is significant and close in all respects," says Harri Poranen, CEO of Nivala Industrial Park.

According to Mäntyjärvi, ELME Studio's first equipment was a 3D measuring machine, a machining center and a laser welding robot. At the very beginning, operations focused on sheet metal technology as a product of the mechanics of base stations of mobile phone networks. After sheet metal production moved to countries with cheap labour, research was expanded to ultra-high-strength steels and their usability research. In addition to laser heat treatments, significant investments in induction technology came into play.

Harri Poranen also sees a lot of new potential for utilising ELME Studio in the future.

"In the future, we want to enable new and responsible business. For its part, FMT's pioneering research is key to this development. We hope that conducting top-level research at ELME Studio will also open up opportunities for our companies in international markets. In addition, it is important to create completely new companies through research cooperation," Poranen says.

3D printing has numerous benefits

FMT has tackled an important focus area in metal production. According to Holstein, 3D printing supports sustainable manufacturing and, when used correctly, is cost-effective production. As a great opportunity, 3D printing makes it possible to simplify production chains and reduce the use of materials. Production can also be returned from Asia to Europe and especially to Finland.

According to Antti Järvenpää, one of the challenges of the competitive introduction of metal 3D printing is material quality management and the fatigue resistance of highly optimised products. In the 2010s, FMT Group's research had deepened strongly in the direction of metal fatigue research with the development of high-strength steels, opening a natural research line for determining and optimizing the fatigue resistance of metal 3D printouts in existing laboratories.

Sebastian Recke from Gefertec in Germany presented his company's WAAM technology to produce large metal pieces.

"In the past of metal 3D printing there was a focus on smaller components, but for many applications that's not very interesting in practice. WAAM is a big game changer, a growing technology in the market. Especially in Finland it's a really interesting technology because you have a lot of heavy industry, you have shipbuilding, you have mines and forests. For example, propellers on ships or parts of forest machines can be 3D printed with WAAM", Recke tells.

“A common challenge for university research is to utilise research results in society, for example, to improve the competitiveness of industry. Active business cooperation enables long-term national development work so that research groups and industry develop side by side with the help of pre-decided strategic guidelines. Ecosystems such as FAME are particularly good examples of increased dialogue and practical cooperation between research and commercial production," Järvenpää says.

An effective partner

Holstein praises the FMT Group as an efficient and productive partner.

"You can say that if you work with FMT, you can be sure that things will progress. When we talk about whether we should do something, soon someone from the FMT group calls and says, 'Hey, we did, and we got results like this.' You don't spend six months thinking about what to do; you actually do things," Holstein says.

"Over the years, the FMT Group's staff has accumulated an interdisciplinary and multi-technical group of different passionate people. A clear and coherent research entity in the personnel's comfort zone makes work dynamic and efficient, as a globally exceptional research laboratory enables even the wildest experiments. The cooperation network also works well in the other direction, as things happen more efficiently in cooperation than alone," Järvenpää says.

The funding for the 3DTY project comes from the national call for applications for research on the theme of the " The Innovation and Skills in Finland 2021–2027" programme "Innovation and skills networks". The funding authority is the South Savo Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment. The main funder of the IDiD project is the EU's Interreg Aurora programme and the funding authority is the Regional Council of Lapland.

See photos from FMT Days here.

Last updated: 24.6.2024