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.
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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.
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.
Off-line programming software tools for CMMs allow manufacturers to increase measurement capacity and throughput by programming CMMs, probes, and fixtures before parts are made.
“Five years ago, our fit and finish was below average,” said Dr. Raj Kawlra, director of dimensional strategy and management of Chrysler Group (Auburn Hills, MI). “To be the future world-leaders, we knew that we had to focus on all aspects of quality … vehicles that look good, feel good, sound good, and are reliable.”
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.
The challenge of machining hip replacement implants out of cobalt chrome
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.