Toolcraft reflects on its AM journey – focuses on the importance of quality assurance in compliance with certified standards

It may sound like “Déjà Vu”, but Toolcraft started in a garage over 30 years ago in Georgensgmünd and Spalt with the goal of providing technological solutions to a wide range of industries. Today, with over 400 employees, the company covers the entire process chain, from the initial idea to manufacturing, quality assurance and testing in the areas of CNC machining, additive manufacturing, injection moulding and mould making.

Its AM journey started in 2011 and was marked by the construction of a dedicated facility to explore and provide AM solutions. Since then, key milestones in its journey include the Nadcap and TÜV Süd certifications, investments in cutting-edge equipment such as Trumpf’s laser material deposition (LMD) machine, twelve powder bed machines, a machine with a powder nozzle as well as Siemens NX software that supports its additive manufacturing work throughout its entire process chain.

 When every single step of the process chain for the production of a part is complete – from design and simulation to manufacturing, there is nothing like quality assurance to set clear expectations and standards.

The toolcraft team conducts this process by using tactile and optical techniques. Components can also be tested for tears using non-destructive methods and samples can be analysed in the lab.

To ensure that quality assurance is conducted adequately, components must be manufactured in a suitable environment where crucial factors such as ambient temperature and air humidity are continuously monitored. The manufacturing process must be described in detail and be followed by everyone involved. Numerous monitoring tools are also needed, for example to record the oxygen content, air humidity and heating in the manufacturing space. These tools include camera systems for monitoring the powder bed so that any irregularities in the deposition of the powder can be identified early on. These and other monitoring tools are indispensable and their extremely high precision allows minimal deviations in the process to be detected. Of course, the human eye is still essential for performing visual inspections during manufacturing as well.

Additive manufacturing in accordance with the Nadcap standard

Companies must have numerous conditions in place in order to be certified to produce additively manufactured components in line with the Nadcap standard. After companies have examined the entire process, staff must receive in-depth training and be given the required authorisations, e.g. to work as machine operators, project managers or visual inspectors.

Pre-processing also involves a number of challenges. To meet the required standard, maintenance plans need to be drawn up for machinery and screening stations and defined maintenance intervals need to be adhered to and documented. Procurement specifications and incoming goods inspections play an important role in maintaining powder quality. An appropriate powder sampling method must be defined to allow particle-size distribution and oxygen and nitrogen content to be analysed. This must include access to a lab – either through a service provider or an in-house lab. Toolcraft decided to establish its own in-house lab where three materials technicians carry out various analyses. The qualification of build jobs is also highly important during the certification process. This always plays a key role when inspecting a machine for the first time or when using a new material. This task also forms a crucial part of regular quality control. When preparing build jobs, it is important to pay attention to both the component’s design and its arrangement and orientation in the manufacturing space. In certain circumstances, it may be necessary to undertake a simulation to rule out any potential delays in advance and to ensure optimum component quality. A document accompanying the manufacturing process must be created and maintained so that all the steps performed and the people involved can be retraced.

Remember, you can post job opportunities in the AM Industry on 3D ADEPT Media free of charge or look for a job via our job board. Make sure to follow us on our social networks and subscribe to our weekly newsletter : FacebookTwitterLinkedIn & Instagram ! If you want to be featured in the next issue of our digital magazine or if you hear a story that needs to be heard, make sure to send it to