Additive manufacturing lets companies think “outside the box.” Engineers can now start to look at a part without restrictions on size, shape or material. Instead of taking 15 different CNC milled parts and brazing them together, these companies have reimagined the part entirely—to be built as one part.
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VMCs have had a productive past, present and the future looks promising
In auto racing, small details have a major impact on success—a concept very familiar to performance racing parts provider Oliver Racing Parts (Charlevoix, MI). Oliver produces performance connecting rods for the world’s leading engine builders.
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.
“Metrology and its relationship to manufacturing is rapidly evolving,” Ken Woodbine, president, Wilcox Associates, a brand of Hexagon Metrology (North Kingstown, RI), recently observed. “We are seeing larger quantities and faster speeds of measurement data collection. The next challenge is what to do with all that data.”
If NASA’s Journey to Mars project succeeds, the astronauts who make the 140 million-mile (225 million-km) trip to the Red Planet in the 2030s will need someplace to stay. The space agency is looking at 3D printing, using on-site materials, to manufacture humanity’s first deep space home.
While high-end metrology devices like advanced laser scanners or precision CMMs garner a lot of attention, it is hard to imagine any industrial setting without the presence of work-a-day hand-held, contact metrology tools such as calipers or micrometers. That is what Justin Frazzini, quality manager for A.A. Jansson (Waterford, MI), retailer and calibration and repair service provider, observes in his practice.
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.
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.