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.
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.
Waterjet technology, cutting materials with a jet of water, is proceeding down two parallel paths. The first involves more advanced machines, operating with more sophisticated software finding the right mix of pressure and speed, producing parts faster.
Sciaky Inc. (Chicago) has staked its claim to being the leading provider of metal 3D printing solutions for large parts approved for land, sea, air, and space applications, with the latest success being its Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) technology. Sciaky was called upon to manufacture a titanium variable ballast (VB) tank for a submarine manufacturer.