The big buzz in the rapid prototyping area is direct digital manufacturing. That is, the machines and materials originally designed to make fast prototypes have improved so significantly in recent years that they are now being positioned to make actual production parts for relatively low volumes. They’re already made an impressive entry into the production of jigs and fixtures used for assembly purposes.
One of the big issues is the ability of the newer equipment to make tolerances approaching, if not comparable to, injection molding processes. A new study from Stratasys shows impressive results. Of 3,888 measurements tested on 144 sample parts, 99.5 percent were within ±0.005 inch (0.13 mm), and 49.9% were within a narrow tolerance band of ±0.001 inch (0.03 mm). Throughout the analysis, only 197 measurements (5.1 percent) exceeded the tolerance specification.
Is that type of accuracy repeatable?
Stratasys says results were consistent among the three Fortus 900mc machines that were tested.
Instead of sifting through huge amounts of technical data looking for answers to assembly problems, engineers can now benefit from 3M's new initiative -- 3M Assembly Solutions. The company has organized its wealth of adhesive and tape solutions into six typical application areas, making it easier to find the best products to solve their real-world assembly and bonding problems.
Many of the materials in this slideshow are resins or elastomers, plus reinforced materials, styrenics, and PLA masterbatches. Applications range from automotive and aerospace to industrial, consumer electronics and wearables, consumer goods, medical and healthcare, as well as sporting goods, and materials for protecting food and beverages.
Engineers trying to keep track of the ever-ballooning number of materials and machines for additive manufacturing and 3D printing now have some relief: a free searchable database with more than 350 machines and 450 different materials.
At JEC Europe Dow Automotive introduced a new ultra-fast, under-60-second molding cycle time for its commercial-grade VORAFORCE 5300 epoxy resin matrix for carbon composites. It's aimed at high-volume automotive manufacturing.
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