Uppsala, Sweden-based company VBN Components is a pioneer in 3D printing in metal that develops new alloys with extreme abrasion and heat resistance, under the Vibenite brand. The company has just become part of the Swedish Scaleups program, which helps innovative companies in eastern Central Sweden to grow faster, To show off the capabilities of the latest materials in the family, Fe/Cr based Vibenite 350, the company produced the first-ever 3D printed ice hockey skate blade, which promises increased corrosion protection and hardness.
VBN Components also uses the Vibenite to offer parts manufactured according to customer drawing and completed through a patented 3D printing process. With this, the company claims that its customers see material savings of up to 87%, while many products can provide improved properties with integrated cooling channels, increased service life, and lower weight. The finished metal alloys with the Vibenite brand present exceptional abrasion and heat resistance. Over the years, it has been shown that components manufactured in Vibenite have a significantly longer service life than those made from traditionally manufactured metals. VBN is the only company offering high-carbide 3D printed steel (Vibenite 480) and the ability to 3D print industrial carbide components.
The company incubator UIC (Uppsala Innovation Center) is part of Swedish Scaleups, which supports innovative companies in eastern Central Sweden to grow even faster. Scaleup is aimed at mature companies that are ready to scale up seriously and invest in strong growth. The program is completely industry independent and tailored to the needs of companies focusing on capital raising and internationalization. Together, ten company incubators and science parks offer unique access to tailor-made support to scale up the company’s operations faster.
“We are incredibly pleased that VBN Components sees the value of participating in Swedish Scaleups. It is an exciting company with a sustainable and innovative business concept as well as good conditions for rapid growth. We look forward to following their journey of success,” said Michael Camitz, project manager Swedish Scaleups / UIC.
Through the program, VBN Components can gain access to specialized specialist knowledge in areas such as law, finance, marketing, leadership and technology. The goal is to move from early adopters to a mass-market while maintaining the balance between growth, recruitment and cash flow.
“Having been accepted to Swedish Scaleups is fully in line with our growth plan. The growth of a company can be described as a collection of geometric figures that need to be placed in the market’s previously different shaped holes. Swedish Scaleups helps with precision and how we can take shortcuts, ”says Ulrik Beste, Technical Manager at VBN Components.
Additive Ecosystem – Made in Sweden
As their additive journey continued, VBN Components founders Ulrik Beste and Martin Nilsson set about finding the best additive manufacturing technology able to cope with VBN’s materials and their unique set of properties and challenges.
Their search led them to Gothenburg and GE Additive Arcam EBM. Electron beam melting (EBM) is well suited to unique, versatile materials and remains the only commercially available technology for additively manufacturing crack prone metals and alloys.
The higher levels of carbon in tool steel increase the material’s propensity to crack during production with large temperature gradients. This makes high carbon level steels unsuitable for additive manufacturing process with cold ambient temperatures such as laser powder bed fusion (PBF).
EBM technology is able to process high crack-prone alloys due to high build temperature and achieve the design complexity, which cannot be achieved with conventional production processes. EBM’s vacuum environment is perfect for material protection and mitigates the introduction of impurities.
Since 2004, Arcam EBM machines have been integral to operations at VBN. These machines are designed to process materials that require elevated process temperatures. The build chamber of this machine is specifically designed to withstand extremely high process temperatures, up to 1100° C.
The Vibenite range
All components commercialized by VBN are made with Vibenite materials. They are delivered to near-net-shape, hardened and with grinding add-on upon chosen surfaces. In general the Vibenite materials have exceptional wear resistance and are fully dense.
- Vibenite® 350 – Corrosion resistant, but still with rather high wear resistance and toughness. Hardness of ∼60 HRC (680-700 HV). High chromium content. (Fe/Cr-based).
- Vibenite® 150 – Multipurpose material, hardness range from 55-63 HRC (600-780 HV). (Fe-based)
- Vibenite® 280 – For cutting in other metals, also suitable for other wear applications. Hardness range from 63 to 70 HRC (780-1000 HV). (Fe-based)
- Vibenite® 290 – The hardest commercially-available steel type in the world, launched in November 2017. Hardness range of 68-72 HRC (940-1100 HV). Perfect for cutting in other metals and other high wear applications. (Fe-based)
- Vibenite® 480 – Hybrid carbide (cemented carbide/hard metal), released in December 2018. Hardness of ∼66 HRC (860–870 HV), carbide content of ∼65%, long-term heat resistance of 750°C, corrosion-resistant, magnetic. Recommended where high-speed steels are not heat-resistant enough and where cemented carbides are too brittle or need complex shapes. For extreme wear applications, especially with demands of high heat resistance. (Co-based)
- The steels, Fe- and Fe/Cr-based materials are hardened after production and can also be soft annealed. Note that Co-based materials do not need hardening.