Keystone Synergistic Enterprises, LLC: Affordable and Advanced Additive Manufacturing
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Keystone Synergistic Enterprises, LLC: Affordable and Advanced Additive Manufacturing

Raymond Walker, Vice President, Keystone SynergisticRaymond Walker, Vice President
With a highly-experienced foundation in additive manufacturing (AM), Raymond Walker has been deploying AM technologies starting at Pratt & Whitney over 20 years ago, and he saw from close quarters how customers lacked the tools to qualify and manufacture high-performance, critical and non-critical components for demanding aerospace, defense, and industrial markets. “The customers lacked process controls for ensuring that the AM parts are manufactured layer by layer—involving the microstructures and mechanical properties—in a uniform way,” he reveals. Combining his rich experience in materials, metallurgy, and materials processing with in-depth understanding of the issues associated with additive manufacturing, residual stresses, distortion, control of microstructure, and the uniformity of depositing parts, Walker began his journey by co-founding Keystone Synergistic Enterprises to solve these challenges and provide tailored additive manufacturing solutions to achieve production level qualification.

Having recognized that metal additive manufacturing, as an alternative to casting, forging, or fabrication is where the tide is shifting, Keystone, primarily an R&D and prototyping organization, is leading forward with large-format metal additive manufacturing with easier and faster qualifications. From technology development and application discovery; through product design, testing and qualification; and to production, Keystone’s additive manufacturing solutions are backed by a strong understanding of the phenomena associated with generating large shapes.

In the realm of aerospace and defense additive manufacturing solutions, the name Keystone remains synonymous with experience, expertise, and high quality. With over 18 years of industry presence in transferring highly innovative technologies into aerospace component production and additive manufacturing, it stands to reason that renowned companies rely on Keystone’s additive manufacturing capabilities to address two primary issues limiting rapid adoption of metal additive manufacturing: repeatability and qualification.

Using robotic platforms, the company is responsible for manufacturing large format additive manufacturing parts up to eight feet diameter, ten feet tall and 3,000 pounds weight. “Unlike competitors, we have B-basis allowable material property databases of several aerospace alloys including Titanium, nickel-based superalloys, steel, and stainless steel alloys. Moreover, our wire-fed manufacturing process enables clients to use any available weld wire,” adds Walker.

He continues, “We educate our customers on the different styles of additive manufacturing, capabilities, limitations, constraints and the cost of additive manufacturing versus typical forging and casting. We also help them realize the significant size constraints of 3D printing or powder-bed technologies. When it comes to manufacturing large parts, it is imperative to grasp the difference between powder bed fusion and directed energy deposition in additive manufacturing.” Keystone’s team leverages its vast industry and materials processing experience to work closely with the client’s engineering team and “unveils the new answers of additive manufacturing.”

Another aspect that makes Keystone unique is the team’s expertise in repairing aerospace components with sophisticated technologies that require welding and component reconstruction. Moreover, one of the company’s core focus area is jet engine component repair for parts called integrally bladed rotors (IBRs)—high-value fan and compressor components that face airfoil damage. Currently, Keystone works closely with NASA for developing AM methods and unique solid-state joining methods such as thermal stir welding at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. As NASA is trying to prove that additive manufacturing can be a viable approach for making larger rocket engine components, it works with Keystone to design and develop test parts such as rocket combustors and nozzles, cooled hypersonic engine components, and other large structures.

Moving forward, Keystone will invest further in additive manufacturing for large components, aiming a higher growth trajectory. As part of its roadmap, Keystone will foray into the manufacturing of components, such as industrial equipment, oil and gas drilling, and mining machine parts. “We are setting up a manufacturing division for the large-scale additive manufacturing. Thermoplastics 3D printing, pulse laser wire feed additive manufacturing for small scale components are also in focus,” concludes Walker.