The use of electrical discharge machining, or EDM, is spreading as manufacturers need more precisely cut workpieces, often made from tough to machine materials.
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When you walk into the Redeye On Demand facility in Eden Prairie, MN, you enter into one version of the factory of the future. There you will see a bank of 100 high-end Fortus fused-deposition modeling (FDM) machines from Stratasys that provide the capacity to build real, functional parts with production-grade thermoplastics directly from CAD data.
Today’s products require high finishes, burr-free edges, freedom from contamination, and often close tolerances. Electropolishing provides all of those conditions and more in a matter of seconds for many metal parts. It is a process that has been used for more than a hundred years. It is widely known and the science is widely discussed, but its ability to run job shop lots and high-precision high-volume parts in the same equipment makes it a bit unique.
It is reported that, not too long ago, before the current precipitous decline in machine-tool shipments, the number of 30-taper machines that were being manufactured and sold in Japan had surpassed the numbers of 40-taper and 50-taper machining centers.
It’s getting harder to imagine any market that isn’t benefiting from the latest developments in parts manufactured from advanced composites. “Advanced composites will arguably dominate consumer and production products, especially in the near future,” says Bert Erdel, industry consultant and executive technology advisor, Morris Group Inc. (Windsor, CT), “as they have begun to gain wide acceptance in solving energy-related issues.”
The machining challenges for two of the most advanced concepts in cutting tool materials are pretty well known. Cubic boron nitride (CBN) tools of varying designs are being used to cut hardened ferrous metals with or without interrupted cuts, as well as welded and clad metals.
It’s been almost two decades since the C5 Corvette hit the streets with its groundbreaking chassis built around hydroformed steel bumper-to-bumper frame rails. The technology gave engineers a chance to create components that were both lighter and stiffer than traditional stamped and welded assemblies.
Advanced simulation, new toolpath techniques aid programming of highly complex machinery. CAD/CAM software developers continue to refine simulation capabilities and toolpath techniques that enable programming highly complex equipment including multiaxis and multitasking machine tools.
Daimler may be the first vehicle maker to offer 3D-printed replacement parts, but racing enthusiasts and car collectors like Jay Leno have been using additive manufacturing and 3D scanning for many years to replace worn-out parts or to enhance their rides.
When GE decided that additive manufacturing was the way to go for making metal fuel nozzles for its new LEAP engine, the company touched off interest in other shops to move 3D printers from the design studio to the factory floor. It also stepped up the focus on safety standards for metal AM.