Hybrid machines, democratization key to growing additive manufacturing
The democratization of additive manufacturing (AM) and developing hybrid machines that can use AM and subtractive manufacturing (SM) can have a major impact in improving production cycles and the types of products that can be printed.
Additive manufacturing (AM) has made many technological improvements, which has allowed for larger and more productive machines. These developments, said Greg Hyatt, senior VP, chief technical officer (CTO), DMG Mori, in his presentation "New Approaches to Additive Manufacturing" at IMTS on Sept. 13 should encourage machinists and designers to try new concepts that will allow to be democratized.
Hyatt said that his company "Started looking at additive manufacturing and asked. 'What were the enabling technologies, and what could we do to help improve the process?"" and that this is a process many companies involved in additive manufacturing are pursuing to improve production.
Hyatt listed several things that will need to be achieved for AM to be democratized:
- Cost reduction (faster deposition), which will measure weight in Kg rather than grams per hour. By the same token, work needs to be measured in meters rather than cm.
- The ability to build on existing structures by leverage castings, forgings, plate, or bar to reduce the mass of product being built as well as cycle times.
- Integration of subtractive processes during the machine build.
- Bimetallic builds and graded materials, which will allow different components to be made from different alloys during the production process.
- Better software. A common computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) system that can be easily used and understood by the machinist and the designer is crucial.
Hyatt also talked about hybrid machines as a key tool. Hyatt said a hybrid machine can include additive and subtractive manufacturing (SM) capabilities in the same machine and perform operations simultaneously. Hyatt also gave examples of how it can reduce residual stress and keep separate parts from moving around during the machining process, which can have a disastrous effect on production. Hybrid machines also address assembly that involves multiple alloys, which can be a real challenge because it can also have a harmful effect on production.
Hyatt said that willing partners are essential. "Companies will have more success with design engineers willing to work with the process for additive manufacturing. They're looking for a repeatable process, and we may be discovering new alloys or new processes while putting everything together." With additive manufacturing and hybrid machines, Hyatt stressed that the process still requires a lot of testing to confirm design and implementation, given how complex the process can be.
While most of these developments are still a ways off from seeing mass production, Hyatt is pleased with the results and the promise they've yielded so far. "Are we there yet? I hope so," he said. "I hope we've determined what technologies are needed to realize and achieve AM's potential for the future."
Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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