Strong 2016 earnings among top industrial laser providers, continued brisk adoption of fiber lasers, cheaper ultrafast lasers, and a host of novel applications and notable corporate acquisitions signal a big year ahead for photonics-based manufacturing.
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In our May webinar titled “Lasers in Manufacturing: State of the Art in 2018,” we noted the emergence of some novel technologies to produce the “holy grail” of laser welding: spatter-free joins with no porosity and, when required, highly aesthetic outcomes.
To stay current with technology and peer into the future of manufacturing, take a look at our preview of IMTS—The International Manufacturing Technology Show, to be held at McCormick Place in Chicago from Sept. 10 through Sept. 15. In the following pages, ME provides in-depth examinations of each pavilion at IMTS, as well as previews of the products you will be able to see displayed at exhibitors’ booths.
Additive manufacturing (AM) pioneer Charles Hull introduced the first commercial 3D printer, the SLA-1, in 1987. Jaws dropped, machinists wondered about their next career, pundits said it spelled the death of traditional manufacturing. None of that happened, thankfully; in fact, some said 3D printing was a bunch of hype, good for little more than investment casting patterns and proof of concept prototypes.
Constant refinement of medical machining from tooling design to finished product requires not only the ability to handle a broad range of plastic and metal materials but also to achieve predictable results—particularly in the face of strict regulations.
Basic trends in modern manufacturing are driving growth in 3D optical metrology. “One is the highly complex and high-tech material that manufacturers are using today. For example, in the aerospace turbine blade market, they simply cannot touch the part like they used to—the surface finish of the material is too readily affected by any kind of contact metrology."
For ABB, robotic welding comes down to a never-ending process of ensuring parts are suitable for laser joining and developing the appropriate processes. To that end, ABB is refining a recent innovation to improve beam delivery speeds and has developed software for on-the-fly welding in tandem with Trumpf’s Intelligent Programmable Focusing Optic (IPFO).
Metrology-grade laser scanners are expanding their range of applications. New users are finding the main attractions of laser scanners—speed and ease of use. What prevented more widespread use in the past were laser scanners’ perceived tradeoffs. Using one usually meant sacrificing accuracy or working with noisy data.
Until the middle of 2010, first-tier subcontract machinist, JJ Churchill, could produce turbine blades only if they had their fir-tree root-forms preground elsewhere, or if they were subsequently added by another subcontractor. No longer is this the case.
Burrs, sharp edges, and rough surfaces plague even the most precise metal-cutting or forming process. Deburring and finishing can often be treated as the step-child of a manufacturing process, but its importance is growing as tolerances get tighter and precision devices become the norm.