National Additive Manufacturing Institute Funds First Projects
The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute has funded its first projects. Three of the seven feature Stratasys' high-temperature ULTEM 9085 thermoplastic and its Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process, which Minimizer uses to produce truck fender prototypes. (Source: Minimizer)
Ann, this is a very interesting approach to kick starting an important technology area. I especially like that the universities are working so directly with small manufacturers. This, I would say, is a good use of funds. AM is, as you point out, a new and growing area. It is also one where cheap labor is not really a threat.
Lou, I agree about this whole initiative/institute program, not just NAMII the first one. To have colleges, universities, government entities and manufacturers working together is, one might think, the way it's s'posed to work. And regarding the labor aspect, it's been said more than once that AM can help bring manufacturing back to these shores.
The work with NADCA on using additive manufacturing for die casting tooling is interesting. The idea that additive manufacturing will replace existing manufacturing methods such as casting and forging has gotten a lot of attention, but in my opinion, is somewhat far-fetched.
Casting and forging have been around for thousands of years. The reason they've lasted that long is that they are very good, economical ways to make parts. Also, it's not as though casting and forging technologies have stood still over time. They have developed, and continue to develop, year after year.
To me, it seems more realistic to look at ways that additive manufacturing can complement existing manufacturing techniques. Using additive manufacturing to reduce lead times for die casting tooling is a promising avenue for research.
It would be a huge advantage to be able to make prototype die casting tools in a matter of days, not weeks, or to have a quick way to modify an existing tool.
Just because a technology has been around for thousands of years doesn't mean it can't, or won't, be replaced. Casting is already being replaced in 3D printing/additive manufacturing of dental crowns and bridges using EOS machines--with metal. Stay tuned for a June feature detailing some of these changes.
@Ann: Dental crowns and bridges are an example of an application where additive manufacturing may make sense as an alternative to casting. These are applications where the goal is to make one unique part (customized to the patient). There are probably many other biomedical applications like this.
But I remain skeptical about some of the claims that have been made about additive manufacturing replacing other techniques on a mass scale. I think it's far more likely that additive manufacturing will fill niches (for example, custom medical and dental prostheses), and will supplement existing manufacturing techniques (for example, 3D printed patterns for investment casting).
I think it's interesting that one project is working with the North American Die Casting Association and die casters to improve tool & die manufacturing. Tooling may well be another major area that can be improved by AM.
@Ann: Exactly. Let's say that you design an automotive part, of which you will need 200,000 a year of production. There is no currently 3D printing technique that can economically make 200,000 pieces per year, so it would make more sense to make this part as a die casting.
Now, before you start making 200,000 pieces per year, you need to do some testing on this part, in order to validate your design. That means that you're going to need prototypes.
You could use 3D printing to make prototype parts, but the 3D printed prototypes will have different properties than a die casting. However, if you can use a 3D printing technique to make a prototype tool, you can make real die cast prototypes, without having to wait 8 weeks or more for tooling. This will allow you to get to the validation stage quicker.
This is what I mean when I say that additive manufacturing can complement existing manufacturing techniques. This is the kind of project I think is really worthwhile.
I think all of these projects are worthwhile. And that some of the manufacturing techniques will eventually replace large areas of manufacturing. We just don't know which ones yet. Not all manufacturing is done in super high volumes or on highly automated lines.
Stratonics was a key member of the winning team led by Penn State/Carnegie Mellon U. Stratonics brings the sensor and process control technology to both university for further validation and to industry for commercialization with Optomec and Sciaky.
"Thermal Imaging for Process Monitoring and Control of Additive Manufacturing" – Penn State University Center for Innovative Materials Processing through Direct Digital Deposition (CIMP 3D)
Led by Penn State University, in partnership with several industry and university team members, this project will expand the use of thermal imaging for process monitoring and control of electron beam direct manufacturing (EBDM) and laser engineered net shaping (LENS) additive manufacturing processes. Improvements to the EBDM and LENS systems will enable 3D visualization of the measured global temperature field and real-time control of electron beam or laser power levels based on thermal image characteristics. These outcomes will enable the community to have greater confidence on part properties and quality using these technologies.
An in-depth survey of 700 current and future users of 3D printing holds few surprises, but results emphasize some major trends already in progress. Two standouts are the big growth in end-use parts and metal additive manufacturing (AM) most respondents expect.
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