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.
New versions of BASF's Ecovio line are both compostable and designed for either injection molding or thermoforming. These combinations are becoming more common for the single-use bioplastics used in food service and food packaging applications, but are still not widely available.
The 100-percent solar-powered Solar Impulse plane flies on a piloted, cross-country flight this summer over the US as a prelude to the longer, round-the-world flight by its successor aircraft planned for 2015.
GE Aviation expects to chop off about 25 percent of the total 3D printing time of metallic production components for its LEAP Turbofan engine, using in-process inspection. That's pretty amazing, considering how slow additive manufacturing (AM) build times usually are.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This radio show will show what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.