Ken Wright, President of AddUp

AddUp is an original equipment manufacturer of metal additive manufacturing machines, created as a joint venture between Michelin and Fives in 2016 that is now based in Cincinnati. Ken Wright, president of AddUp, is a trained mechanical engineer with a B.S. from West Point and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from MIT. We spoke to Wright about what the company does.

Give us a brief explanation of additive manufacturing.

Wright: Additive manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing can refer to a variety of processes in which material is deposited and joined together to create a three-dimensional object. These objects are built layer-by-layer. This contrasts with traditional manufacturing, which requires machining or other techniques to remove surplus material in order to create a finished part. There are many different AM processes, with the most common being Powder bed fusion (PBF), Directed Energy Deposition (DED) and Binder Jetting. A variety of materials can be used in AM, including metals, ceramics and plastics.

What are the benefits of AM over traditional manufacturing methods?

Wright: The process allows for the creation of complex geometries that are not attainable using traditional forms of manufacturing. AM is ideal for rapid prototyping, thanks to the digital design process and quick turnaround when compared to traditional manufacturing. In addition, AM creates less material waste, providing cost reduction for high-value parts. AM is used to create a large range of products across a growing number of industries, including aerospace, automotive, medical, energy, luxury and defense.

How did AddUp come to be in Cincinnati?

Wright: AddUp is a joint venture between two French companies: Michelin and Fives. Michelin has been using AM since the early 2000s to manufacture their tire sipes used to create tire molds. But Michelin found that the metal AM machines on the market didn’t meet their requirements for high quality and serial production.

So they partnered with Fives and sought to develop a Laser Powder Bed Fusion (L-PBF) machine that could build industrial parts with [high] quality, accuracy and repeatability. From this collaboration, AddUp was formed. In 2018, AddUp acquired DED machine manufacturer BeAM Machines (its U.S. operations were based in Cincinnati).

Prior to the acquisition of BeAM, U.S. operations for AddUp were based out of Greenville, South Carolina. In 2021, these offices were consolidated to create the new U.S. subsidiary of AddUp in Cincinnati.

What happens at the Cincy facility?

Wright: The 20,000 square-foot facility is equipped with a dedicated additive manufacturing workspace, metallurgical lab, applications training facility and post-processing machining department. This year, the company made a multimillion-dollar investment into the facility to include a new state-of-the-art, negative pressure PBF lab, fit to house six of the newest generation FormUp 350 PBF machines.

In addition to these 3D printers, two BeAM DED machines are operating out of the Cincinnati facility. This new demonstration facility and technical services center will be able to provide metal AM printing services and support for AddUp’s U.S. customers in the aerospace, defense, medical and tooling industries.

What are PBF and DED technologies? How do they work?

Wright: AddUp focuses on two different AM processes: Powder Bed Fusion (PBF) and Direct Energy Deposition (DED). In a laser PBF machine, parts are made in successive horizontal layers. For each layer, metal powder is spread on a production platform, and a laser melts the areas that need to be solidified. Here’s a video demonstrating this process. PBF technology is best suited for manufacturing parts with complex geometries, combining multiple discrete components into one functional part or to optimize part design and reduce weight while maintaining functionality and structural integrity.

DED technology is the process of melting metal powder with a focused energy source (laser) as it is deposited by a nozzle on a surface. In a DED machine, the nozzle head moves around a fixed object, depositing the material in specific locations to create a part. Here’s a video demonstrating that process. DED technology is best suited for the manufacture of large parts but can also be useful for the repair of worn parts.

What are the advantages of having the subsidiary here?

Wright: Cincinnati was chosen based on its strong manufacturing heritage, access to a talented workforce, proximity to industrial and government partners in metal 3D printing, and enthusiastic support from the state of Ohio. AddUp is in the process of creating 25 new jobs and plans to invest $12.5 million in Blue Ash over the next three years. All of this is driven by the expansion of the metal AM market, along with increased investment in product development and sales channels on the part of AddUp’s investors, Michelin and Fives.