There’s an old saw that if bumblebees were aeronautical engineers they would know they can’t fly. Quite apart from the miracle of their flight, bees also happen to make a lightweight structure of surprising strength, just the sort of thing you’d want if you were building aircraft: honeycomb.
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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.
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.
Entrepreneurs and existing manufacturers are making 3D printers that automate production of composite parts, and are unique in their design.
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.
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 additive manufacturing revolution is in full stride, flying in aircraft and giving manufacturers a robust tool for design and production
Today, laser technology in manufacturing touches all of our lives on a daily basis; lasers cut air bag material and weld air bag detonators for our in-car safety; lasers weld the batteries in many of our mobile devices; lasers drill aero-engine components for planes; lasers cut the glass for our smart phones and tablets screens; lasers weld the drivetrains in our cars and trucks; lasers cut medical stents that increase and enhance our lives, just to name a few.
Composites engineers are expanding their craft to build more complex, durable parts at higher production volumes. One way they are achieving this objective is by using infusion-molding processes based on Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) and Vacuum Assisted Resin Transfer Molding (VARTM).