3D printing continues its rise as a dominant force in the manufacturing industry
Additive manufacturing (AM) pioneer Charles Hull introduced the first commercial 3D printer, the SLA-1, in 1987. Jaws dropped, machinists wondered about their next career, pundits said it spelled the death of traditional manufacturing. None of that happened, thankfully; in fact, some said 3D printing was a bunch of hype, good for little more than investment casting patterns and proof of concept prototypes.
Skepticism Didn’t Last Long
The first 3D-printed car, the Strati, was built at IMTS 2014. At least six 3D-printed cars appeared at IMTS 2016, along with one motorcycle and countless demo parts. Show attendees flocked to ride Olli, an autonomous, digitally manufactured vehicle developed by Local Motors, whose CEO Jay Rogers had driven the Strati onto the streets of Chicago beyond McCormick Place just two years earlier.
Doubters aside, few would say that 3D printing hasn’t changed the pace of product development, let alone the face of manufacturing overall. This fact is abundantly clear at IMTS 2018. Where 2016 saw 3D printing graduate from the Fabricating and Laser Pavilion to its own dedicated venue, no less than 56 exhibitors will be present at this year’s Additive Manufacturing Pavilion, triple that of the previous show.
While Hull’s first SLA-1 is now on display at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum (Alexandria, VA), his company remains a pioneer in additive manufacturing. At IMTS, 3D Systems Inc. (Rock Hill, SC) will showcase a portfolio of products and services that, according to chief marketing officer Doug Vaughan, are enabling manufacturers to easily move from prototyping to 3D production, improve speed and accuracy, and lower their total cost of operation.
“Through our presence at IMTS 2018, 3D Systems is showcasing the 3D printing technologies, materials and software that are enabling man-ufacturers and designers to enhance their workflows and gain competitive advantage,” said Doug Vaughan, chief marketing officer. “We’ve been able to develop these unique solutions based on the tremendous passion, knowledge and expertise of our engineers and scientists fueled by collaboration with our customers.”
Highlights include the company’s Figure 4 Production and Figure 4 Standalone machines, “the fastest, most accurate 3D printing technology available.” Recently released technical data on the Figure 4 Production system promises print speeds up to 100 mm/hr. and the ability to print 1 million+ parts per year from more than 30 different industrial and dental grade materials.
“The combination of machine speed and accuracy, complemented by a light-based UV curing process that takes minutes versus hours compared to heat-based curing processes, yields the world’s fastest additive manufacturing throughput and time-to-part,” said Vaughan.
For manufacturers needing to produce larger parts with superior durability and finishing, 3D Systems suggests its ProX SLS 6100, also on display. This next-generation printing platform is said to enable customers to seamlessly scale from functional prototyping to low-volume functional production parts.
There will also be an entry-level industrial 3D printing solution, the FabPro 1000, bundled with the company’s 3D Sprint software to facilitate preparation and optimization of CAD data and management of the AM process. The new system is designed for ease of use during low-volume small part prototyping and production, and it reportedly produces high-quality parts up to three times faster than competing systems.
Short for Electro Optical Systems
Another leader in the 3D printing industry is Germany-based EOS, which will unveil a new metal industrial 3D printing platform that “significantly raises the level of additive manufacturing productivity while delivering part quality via an automation-ready, future-proof and scalable platform.”
That’s according to Patrick Boyd, marketing director at EOS North America (Novi, MI). “3D printing and additive manufacturing are rapidly maturing,” he said. “While R&D 3D printing is still important, we have reached the end of the beginning and have now entered the phase of true serial production. Now we’ve developed machines and materials with production in mind. Even with the most challenging applications, organizations continue to understand AM’s value and cost effectiveness. In fact, sometimes the more challenging [the job], the better suited [it is] for AM.”
EOS will feature its new machine as well as a virtual reality station featuring the industrial-ready EOS P 500 polymer platform, and spotlight cutting edge applications, materials and software. “Our team of experts will be on hand to answer your 3D printing questions no matter where your organization is on your AM journey,” noted Boyd.
Fully Dense Metal Parts
Another Germany-based AM provider, SLM Solutions, will unveil its SLM 280 3D metal printer at IMTS. “The SLM 280 metal additive manufacturing system 3D-prints fully dense metal parts with exceptional surface finish, dimensional accuracy and strength,” explained a recent company press release.
One key feature of the SLM280 is its housing, which encases the machine, filters and closed-loop powder sieving station into one design. Along with a 280 x 280 x 365-mm build platform and bi-directional powder recoating, a new, enhanced filter module reduces consumable costs, significantly increases runtime, and reduces process waste and associated disposal costs by allowing waste to be safely disposed of as a dry mixture while the filter can be re-used continuously.
It also provides improved gas flow, according to Dr. Richard Grylls, technical director for SLM Solutions North America (Wixom, MI). “Good shielding gas flow is essential to achieving homogeneous mechanical properties throughout the build,” he said. “Too little gas flow and the soot from the process will hinder the laser; too much, and the powder bed will be disturbed. The SLM 280 builds on the best-in-class gas flow of the previous model.”
Additionally, SLM Solutions will present its Additive.Intelligence software. Features include imports of all native CAD formats, eliminating the need for STL files, reducing supports with an optimized exposure strategy, guiding users to the best plate positioning with component orientation processing and offering a preliminary calculation of build costs based on machine and build setup.
“The goal of the software is to lower the learning curve of additive manufacturing by reducing the software skills necessary to be successful while optimizing builds with fewer supports and with workflows based on specific part preparation,” added Grylls.
Take a Powder
Global engineering technologies company Renishaw will launch a new external powder silo option for its RenAM 500 family of additive manufacturing systems at IMTS. Visitors will also be introduced to a recently launched multi-laser system, RenAM 500Q, which the company said can improve AM productivity by up to four times.
As standard, Renishaw AM systems feature integrated automated powder-handling systems that enable consistent process quality, minimize operator intervention time and ensure high standards of system safety, according to the company. However, for some companies, established working methods require the ability to handle batch-to-batch powder management.
To meet this need, Renishaw has collaborated with LPW Technology to integrate its PowderTrace hopper as an option. The hopper, designed exclusively for AM metal powders, has a capacity of 120 L, features the PowderEye monitoring system, and is said to be an ideal solution for users who require batch control on the Renishaw RenAM platform.
Out of the Office
Powder management isn’t a concern with HP’s recently introduced Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology. IMTS attendees will have the opportunity to see the entire HP Jet Fusion portfolio, including the new full-color HP Jet Fusion 300 / 500 series, and new 3D printing applications. The booth will also feature a digital transformation area, showcasing breakthrough pro-duction applications from customers around the world.
HP will highlight its “Reinventing HP with Multi Jet Fusion” program, which leverages its Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology to lower costs, speed time to market, increase customer satisfaction, and improve sustainability across its Print, Personal Systems, and 3D Printing business units, according to Ramon Pastor, vice president and general manager for HP Multi Jet Fusion.
“The $12 trillion manufacturing market is being digitally transformed and 3D printing is helping to drive this fourth industrial revolution,” he said. “HP is committed to democratizing 3D design and manufacturing to unleash new possibilities for millions of innovators around the world. Regardless of industry or design complexity, HP’s 3D printing solutions give companies and industries the ability to create fully functional parts without the constraint of traditional production methods.”
Following the Path of Digitization
Those machinists who once wondered what impact 3D printing would have on their future careers will almost certainly be familiar with the next few participants in the AM party. Machine builder DMG Mori, for example, will be presenting numerous new technologies, among them the LASERTEC 30 SLM generation 2, with a cubic build volume measuring 300 x 300 x 300 mm. The powder bed machine uses selective laser melting to produce a variety of small, complex parts.
A company press release explained that the LASERTEC 30 SLM enables the flexible use of different materials, while an intelligent powder module concept allows material changeover in under two hours. This closed powder circuit also guarantees a high degree of work safety and process autonomy. The machine’s ergonomic design simplifies workpiece handling and maintenance work through an arrangement of doors and flaps, while the new “Stealth Design Control Panel” keeps all important buttons and operating elements in direct view and control.
“With the LASERTEC 30 SLM, we have brought powder bed technology out of the laboratory environment and into the sphere of industrial production,” said Fred Carter, lead engineer of DMG Mori’s Advanced Solutions Inc. (Hoffman Estates, IL).
“This selective laser melting machine produces 3D parts with lattice and honeycomb structures which are not achievable with other machining methods. It’s quite simply an ‘enabler’ of technology.”
Okuma America Corp. (Charlotte, NC) is another familiar name in the machine tool business. Senior Applications Engineer Paul Kingsley said the company will highlight its presence in the 3D printing market with a hybrid CNC, capable of both additive and subtractive machining.
“Our MU-series of five-axis vertical machining centers has been out for four years now, but is the first platform we’ve added a laser to,” he said. “We’ve since begun offering laser-based additive capabilities to our MULTUS as well. Both use a 4-kW disk-style laser from Trumpf, although 2000 and 1000 W are also available.”
For those unfamiliar with the technology, laser metal deposition (LMD) employs a stream of pressurized powder that is “blown” onto the workpiece. A laser simultaneously melts this material as it contacts the workpiece, allowing layers of stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, and “pretty much anything but magnesium” to be applied in beads as large as 6 mm wide and 3 mm thick. And thanks to a programmable collimator, laser spot sizes can be adjusted on the fly, making Okuma’s version of LMD both fast and flexible.
Since this is a hybrid additive/subtractive machine tool, the programmer has the option of using a cutting tool to mill or drill the surrounding area once each layer or series of layers has been added, machining the burgeoning workpiece to its finished dimensions.
“The laser provides a metallurgical bond that opens up a number of doors,” said Kingsley. “Anything from bonding different materials within a single part so as to obtain different performance characteristics to in-process coating of parts to improve wear resistance, there’s little you can’t do with this machine.”
Kingsley said Okuma’s hybrid offers several advantages over competing additive technologies. Because it uses helium or argon as a carrier gas, the nitrogen atmosphere commonly used with laser-based additive is unnecessary, eliminating the need for a sealed machine enclosure. And unlike many additive processes, which use powders fine enough to present an inhalation risk, the 45 to 90 μm particles used with LMD are “heavy” enough to quickly fall to the ground.
Regardless of the particle size, if you’re thinking right now about fine metal powder getting into the machine’s bearings and way surfaces, don’t be. “It’s admittedly abrasive stuff, so we use a combination of dust collection and coolant filtration to address any concerns over contamination,” Kingsley said. “It’s an awesome system.”
Fresh Off the Wire
Another hybrid additive can be found at the booth for Mazak Corp. (Florence, KY), which will be demon-strating its recently released VC-500 AM. Senior Applications Development Engineer Mike Finn said the new machine is based on Mazak’s proven VC-500 five-axis machining center platform, but has been modified to accept a “hot wire” deposition device and high-power laser.
“The machine is capable of any type of five-axis milling routine as well as drilling and tapping,” he said. “It comes standard with a 40-taper 10,000-rpm spindle but there’s an option for higher spindle speeds. It’s a very robust machine capable of machining anything from aluminum or cast iron to titanium and other superalloys. It’s also equipped with our latest control, the Smooth-X CNC.”
The additive part of the equation comes from welding product manufacturer Lincoln Electric, which Mazak has partnered with to feed a pre-heated wire into the work zone, which is then laser-melted to the substrate. As with Okuma and a number of other hybrid machine builders, these layers can subsequently be machined in sections to bring the workpiece to its final dimensions.
This isn’t Mazak’s first foray into additive manufacturing, hybrid or otherwise. Joe Wilker, advanced multitasking product manager, said the company will present five machines that fall under the additive umbrella. “These machines represent the fifth level of multitasking. We’ll have the VC-500 AM hot wire just discussed, our Integrex i-400 AM powder-based hybrid machine that was introduced several years ago, a pair of multitaskers with gear-cutting capability, and our new VCU-300, a friction stir welding hybrid that we developed in partnership with MegaStir. All will be painted gray, and all will be branded with the hybrid multitasking logo. You can’t miss them.”
No Action Without Software
“As the disciplines of design and manufacturing converge, it’s more important than ever that companies understand and adapt to the future of making things,” said Stephen Hooper, senior director of manufacturing business strategy and marketing for Autodesk Inc. (San Rafael, CA).
“At IMTS this year, Autodesk will be showcasing the technologies that can help manufacturers embrace this change so they can make more, make their products better and do it with fewer resources.”
One example of this is a generative design capability in Fusion 360 that allows manufacturers to speed up their product development process by using AI to generate multiple pre-validated product designs with manufacturability built-in as a design constraint.
“We’ll also be showing our latest advances for additive manufacturing and subtractive machining in our PowerMill and Netfabb product lines,” he said. “And to round things out, we’ll be demonstrating our vision for the cloud-connected ‘smart factory’ with our new Fusion Production software, which provides real-time visibility and decision-making for operations on the shop floor.”
To that end, Autodesk is releasing PowerMill 2019, which provides a dedicated suite of additive strategies and simulation tools. “These are designed to solve the unique challenges of programming these hybrid machines,” said Clinton Perry, PowerMill product marketing manager. “PowerMill can generate safe and efficient toolpaths to drive directed energy deposition (DED) processes that utilize wire-fed or powder-blown hardware.
These are not simply subtractive toolpaths in reverse, Perry noted. Instead, PowerMill offers three- and five-axis programs that can be used to build entire components from scratch. Alternatively, localized features or surface coatings can be applied to existing parts, allowing components to be enhanced or repaired. “Of course, being PowerMill, manufacturers have instant access to a vast library of subtractive manufacturing strategies, meaning critical features can be CNC machined where needed.”
Manufacturing Engineering’s IMTS Additive Manufacturing (AM) Pavilion coverage of products continues in the August Digital Issue. Click here to see more products that will be showcased in this pavilion.