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.
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Lightweighting is so established it’s now part of marketing for new vehicles. Automakers routinely detail how much less models weigh than their predecessors. General Motors Co., for example, has said a range of its vehicles is anywhere from almost 250 lb (112.5 kg) to 700 lb (315 kg) lighter.
Sales of cars and light trucks plummeted during the Great Recession and General Motors Co. and Chrysler emerged from government-back bankruptcies in 2009. Since then, total industry deliveries have surged, hitting a record 17.47 million in 2015, according to Autodata Corp.
Even though it’s been around since the 1950s, when engineering-grade resins were first introduced, many manufacturers still are not familiar with the many benefits that metal-to-plastic conversion provides.
Modern manufacturing is rapidly adopting model-based definition (MBD). When employing an MBD strategy, the CAD model becomes more than the nominal to which all parts are measured and inspected against. MBD keeps the all-important digital thread intact—from design to manufacturing to inspection and quality reporting.
Micro components continue to shrink in size, demanding ever-greater precision and improved handling of parts with sub-micron-sized features. New approaches in micro machining technology include higher-precision systems from traditional micro machining developers, as well as techniques using additive manufacturing processes and semiconductor wafer-scale technology on the smallest of micro parts.
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.
The challenges to manufacturing as it evolves into the 21st century are now familiar, and impact how metrology must contribute. Manufacturers face uncertain production volumes with roller-coaster demand, shorter production runs and faster product development cycles. Automation, while alluring as a way to reduce cost, needs to adjust.
Why use a metrology device on or near a machine tool? It isn’t just useful for making sure a tool is present or monitoring tools for wear or breakage. On-machine measurement technologies can save time and money, by speeding up processes and eliminating extra personnel, and they are a critical step in the movement towards “lights-out” manufacturing.
Cutting tool maker Shape-Master Tool Co. (Kirkland, IL) needed to expand its tool grinding capability beyond that of its conventional machines or run the risk of losing work to the competition.