Added value through innovation – layer for layer.

Stellba AG’s motto encompasses exactly the things that also make CHIRON Group Additive Manufacturing special. Innovation, customer benefits and partnership. The Swiss specialists in industrial coatings and machining solutions and Axel Boi’s Additive Manufacturing department are a match made in heaven. That much is clear from the pilot project AM Cube, the first industrial application for the CHIRON Group 3D metal printer.

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If you get to witness Fouad Cheaitani, Head of Sales, Customer Support and Business Development at Stellba, and Axel Boi in an expert discussion, you feel a bit like a spectator at a high-level table tennis match. The balls fly at lightning speed, the ‘players’ are precise and each return brings a new twist. They’re both in their element and clearly proud of the result of their development partnership. The result being the AM Cube, which has only gained more options, and thus a greater variety of possible applications, since it was first brought onto the market in 2020. One thing led to another...

Expanding and deepening expertise
As a specialist for tailored customer solutions for coatings and machining, Stellba has in-depth expertise in the areas of thermal spraying, welding and Plasma-Transferred-Arc. In 2014, they were already using laser technologies and investing in early laser-welding systems. According to Fouad Cheaitani, the aim was to optimize the technology for use at Stellba and to transfer the machining of »XXL workpieces and components« to the system. The particular focus was on the processes where conventional methods delivered good results, but they weren’t quite »Swiss Quality«.

Building expertise and finding new partners
So they built on their expertise, networked with specialists and research institutes and became aware of the CHIRON Group Additive Manufacturing department. In Autumn 2019, when Stellba was looking for a partner to expand their expertise beyond coating to creating workpieces, to answer requests to manufacture small batches, Fouad Cheaitani reached out to Axel Boi. The pair were instantly on the same wavelength and the contracts were signed before Christmas. Two things were important for Fouad Cheaitani. Firstly, »We didn’t want a finished system that we would need to restructure to suit our needs. We’re also a relatively small company, and we worried that we wouldn’t be heard on stage with the large OEMs.« 

 Axel Boi (Head of Additive Manufacturing at the CHIRON Group) and Fouad Cheaitani (Head of Sales, Customer Support and Business Development at Stellba) in front of the AM Cube.
Axel Boi (Head of Additive Manufacturing at the CHIRON Group) and Fouad Cheaitani (Head of Sales, Customer Support and Business Development at Stellba) in front of the AM Cube.

Flexibility. With Additive Manufacturing as an alternative.
Axel Boi was prepared right away to work with Stellba and develop the AM Cube beyond its current capabilities to produce the »fantasy in the factory« everyone wanted. They needed new options for maximum flexibility. Stellba is a service provider, so every day brings new and different demands. Machining with four or five axis, wire or powder, material deposition with lances or nozzles, pre-heating components to 300 degrees, welding under argon cover gas atmosphere to avoid oxidation and the formation of pores... Every project has its own challenges, which the AM Cube would need to conquer fantastically. 

»We didn’t want a pre-made system. We wanted our fantasy in the factory, with a variety of options which we, as contract manufacturers, could adjust for the most different tasks.«
Fouad Cheaitani
Head of Sales, Customer Support and Business Development at Stellba

The Highlights:

  • Coating, 3D printing or repair
  • Automatic changing of deposition heads
  • Feedstock material as wire or power
  • Working on three, four or five axes
  • Programming in DIN ISO or CAM
  • Innovative user interface with SmartLine module TouchLine
  • Comprehensive quality monitoring with DataLine AM and VisioLine AM

Always at top speed
The teams in Dottikon, Switzerland, and Tuttlingen, Germany, worked closely and constructively together to translate the various requirements into practical solutions. The application engineers, material specialists and software engineers from Stellba and the Additive Manufacturing department are in constant contact, combining their expertise and testing new approaches for feasibility. The worry that the CHIRON Group was too large to move at this pace quickly dissolved. The Additive Manufacturing division runs, according to Axel Boi, »like a start-up – very dynamic and flexible. With the CHIRON Group, we have support and more experts that we can call upon if necessary.«

Stellba’s focus is new materials and possibilities
Fouad Cheaitani is on ‘Team Material’ – the »chemistry« with the CHIRON Group is great in this respect too. For him, it’s not just the software and the technology that needs to work perfectly; the material is what achieves optimum results. »In the future, we don’t only want to make components building on the materials we currently have on hand, wire or powder, we actually want to use this as a basis to develop new materials and depositing materials that are perfect for Additive Manufacturing. They should help achieve the required mechanical values and realize new material properties, for example with new additives or new compositions.« 

Will this work better with wire or powder? On the one hand, this is a matter of experience, on the other, it’s a case of experimenting. These experiments lead to the desired results much more quickly than developing and gaining approval for completely new materials.

Easy to use: a real USP
And now, back to reality, after a brief foray into the future of Additive Manufacturing. The important thing is the safe mastery of these highly complex technologies to minimize operating errors. According to Fouad Cheaitani, one of the central benefits of the AM Cube is »Automatic changing of the deposition heads. Whether wire or powder, 3D printing or coating, internal or external... Things that take hours for other manufacturers take only minutes here, and without the need for manual interference. It’s unrivaled.« 

 One of the three AM Cube application heads for applying powder using a lance for the interior coating of components. The three different application heads allow the application material – wire or powder – to be changed in various phases of production.
One of the three AM Cube application heads for applying powder using a lance for the interior coating of components. The three different application heads allow the application material – wire or powder – to be changed in various phases of production.
»The automatic changing of the deposition heads is a key advantage of the AM Cube, and a true USP. It’s unrivaled.«
Fouad Cheaitani
Head of Sales, Customer Support and Business Development at Stellba

The variety goal – check.
Coating, 3D printing or repair – It’s all possible with the AM Cube. And the various applications at Stellba prove that anything is possible. Since it was commissioned, various research projects have been run on the 3D metal printer in collaboration with prestigious Swiss universities and it has already taken on various different orders. It has been welding half-shells for brakes in locomotives, coating the inside of components with aluminum-bronze and repairing turbine blades. Currently, they are building an impeller for a turbine fully additively. Stellba also carries out repairs on components using the AM Cube and is working hard on qualifying new materials such as tungsten carbide or materials based on nickel

 Welding test with aluminum-bronze to calculate the process parameters – magnetic brakes for locomotives
Welding test with aluminum-bronze to calculate the process parameters – magnetic brakes for locomotives
 Cable guide with anti-wear coating made from Stellite® 6
Cable guide with anti-wear coating made from Stellite® 6
 Kneading cogs coated in tungsten carbide
Kneading cogs coated in tungsten carbide

The trial phase is now complete and the AM Cube has already mastered a huge variety of industrial tasks at Stellba, with flying colors. The new additional options developed during the collaboration are now available to all users. The welding process on the AM Cube can also now be captured in real time and documented via the new VisioLine AM and DataLine AM digital systems. 

This begs the question, will Additive Manufacturing replace existing technologies? Fouad Cheaitani and Axel Boi are united in thinking that it won’t. But the engineers have more possibilities when developing components, both regarding the lower weight of the part and saving energy, and the design.

Click here to find out more about the highlights of the AM Cube, applications and options.

Interested in more information or a personal discussion about the AM Cube and its industrial uses at Stellba? 

Axel Boi welcomes your request and would be happy to put you in contact with Fouad Cheaitani.

Axel Boi
Head of Additive Manufacturing, CHIRON Group SE
Tel. +49 7461 940-3871

axel.boi@chiron-group.com


Stellba AG
Stellba AG was founded in 1957 and has its headquarters in Dottikon, with a large-scale production center in Baden. Today, it is one of the most in-demand global specialists on tailored customer coating and machining solutions. The applications for the high-tech finishings include hydro-power plants, thermal power plants, pumps and compressors, components in high-temperature zones and thermal barrier coatings (TBC). Stellba is a contract manufacturer and a partner in the energy supply, oil and gas, maritime, and printing industries, as well as the chemical-pharmaceutical industry. Stellba is a leading authority on future-focused technologies like laser deposition welding and additive manufacturing processes.