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Materials & Assembly

Ford Builds Metal Prototypes With 3D Printing

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naperlou
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3D everywhere
naperlou   1/8/2013 10:05:56 AM
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Chuck, there seems to be an explosion of 3D for prototyping.  I would think that low prodcution rate parts could be made with 3D printing as well.  Of course, for high volume production, injection molding is much faster.  And once the mold is made, it is relatively cheap. 

One thing, though.  You mention parts such as brake disks.  Are these usable as real brakes, or are they just used to test fit and manufacturability.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: 3D everywhere
Ann R. Thryft   1/8/2013 12:24:06 PM
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Chuck, this is great news, although I'm not familiar with the term "surrogate" in 3D printing/AM. I have basically the same question as Lou: are the parts for form and fit only, or are they also functional? And another question: if some of them arfe functional, is this for prototyping or low-end production volumes? Including SLA says prototypes, but LS could be used for production parts.

Charles Murray
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Re: 3D everywhere
Charles Murray   1/8/2013 3:08:23 PM
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These parts are truly functional, so they can be used in prototype testing applications. The main reason they don't make it to production is that these techniques wouldn't be practical for huge volumes. In production, automakers can build hundreds of parts per hour. So while it may take weeks to build the production tooling, they get that time back when the tooling is completed and they move to large-scale production. In contrast, the methods mentioned in this article can take hours per part, so while that works for small lots, it doesn't work for volumes in the tens of thousands. In that sense, building a car is a lot different than building a 787. Automotive production volumes are just too big for this technology.

NadineJ
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Re: 3D everywhere
NadineJ   1/8/2013 5:09:43 PM
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Very true, Charles.  For now, this technology isn't practical for automotive mass production but can be great for antique restoration.

Cabe Atwell
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Re: 3D everywhere
Cabe Atwell   1/9/2013 3:28:00 PM
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Printers and print-materials are getting cheaper. To the point where I am ready to drop the cash one a setup at a moment's notice. I am waiting for that moment, where it becomes a no-brainer on what to get. So far, all the options are not exactly blowing my hair back.

C

NadineJ
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Re: 3D everywhere
NadineJ   1/8/2013 5:08:07 PM
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Is it an explosion or just more mainstream awareness?  With so many stories on NPR, BBC and even morning news shows, you'd think 3D printing was the answer to all of the world's problems. 

According to yahoo news, a 3D printer can build a house in 20hrs.  It's all a little overblown right now.  Once the initial "wow" factor wears off, I think we'll see actual, long-lasting applications.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: 3D everywhere
Ann R. Thryft   1/9/2013 4:49:47 PM
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It's true that media coverage of 3D printing has exploded--but so has the industry, along with real-world applications. It may be so hard to believe because it sounds so much like sci-fi. But Contour Crafting's house-building technology is not smoke. NASA is investigating it, and other similar technologies, for use on the Moon:
http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=250614
Meanwhile, several other 3D printing and related technologies are being developed for making buildings--not prototypes, not molds--some of them quite large:
http://www.ubmfuturecities.com/author.asp?section_id=262&doc_id=523906

Charles Murray
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Re: 3D everywhere
Charles Murray   1/8/2013 7:07:19 PM
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The brake parts were fully functional, Naperlou, not just for fit and finish but for operation, as well.

robatnorcross
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Re: 3D everywhere
robatnorcross   1/9/2013 2:31:17 PM
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Hi Charles. Is it just me or am I the only one that finds that Ford using a plywood constructed 3d printer a bit strange?

Elizabeth M
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3D printing is an exciting space
Elizabeth M   1/8/2013 11:38:18 AM
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Some of the most impressive gains are being made in 3D printing. I think this is the space to watch this year. This way of prototyping could revolutionize the auto industry and allow manufacturers to bang things out much more efficiently and cost effectively. Will be interesting to see how this evolves and is adopted by other automakers.

mrdon
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Re: 3D printing is an exciting space
mrdon   1/8/2013 12:18:52 PM
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Elizabeth M, I agree. This year will be exciting to see all of the innovative products being created using 3D printers. Every Thursday, Adafruit posts blogs regarding the state of 3D printing. Here's the link.https://www.adafruit.com/blog/?s=3D+printing

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: 3D printing is an exciting space
Ann R. Thryft   1/8/2013 3:49:24 PM
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mrdon, thanks for that link. In commenting on an earlier post last year, I expressed the idea that 3D printing could be used for scanning and reproducing museum replicas of various art objects, such as sculptures. Looks like that's being done by more than one artist. Good to see my wish come true.

Scott Orlosky
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Re: 3D printing is an exciting space
Scott Orlosky   1/13/2013 8:52:49 PM
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It's feeling pretty "Brave New World-ish" out there in 3D on-demand manufacturing.  My guess is that this will work it's way into all sorts of areas that we can't even think of right now.  Imagine everything from geological structure models, animation characters, non-human biological structures.  It might even be cheaper to make something "in place" instead of shipping it for certain parts. Definitely a game-changer.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: 3D printing is an exciting space
Ann R. Thryft   1/14/2013 11:57:32 AM
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Scott, building something in place is already happening: it's what's behind both the attempts to make stuff on the moon from moon dust, which we've covered here
http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=250614
and also to make huge multi-unit buildings in place on earth:
http://www.ubmfuturecities.com/author.asp?section_id=262&doc_id=523906

apresher
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3D Printing Limitations
apresher   1/8/2013 2:27:12 PM
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Chuck, Excellent.  But I think what many of us are interested in is your take on the limitations of the technology ...  in terms of what it can and can't deliver.  Thanks.

wlawson
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actual aerospace parts being built with additive manufacturing
wlawson   1/9/2013 10:29:53 AM
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There are actual parts being made for the Air bus and the F35.  for the Air bus TI brackets are being built that weigh about 65% of a machined TI bracket  becaus you put the metal just where it needs to be and as these are low volume parts it save a tremendous amout of cost for stocking, and manufacturing spares. 

The F35 has a very complex airduct/control valve being made tht is reducing the paper required compared for tracking the process QC, etc to a fabricated part from 1-1/2 inches thick to one page basiclly

for a good seminar on this there is a seminar on Laser additive manufacturing in a few weeks put on by the Laser Institute of America that has the latest info available in the world.

eafpres
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3D model making isn't 3D metal printing
eafpres   1/9/2013 3:13:34 PM
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The article mixes some good information and news of Ford's investment/commitment along with similar hype to other articles over the last year or two.

It is unclear from the way things are stated, but it sounds like they are making 3D models, using them to make sand molds, then making 1 part per mold.  That is somewhat novel, but far away from printing functional metal parts in 3D.

We used a similar process over a decade ago to make SLAs then use them to make silicone molds where plastic parts, which were functional enough for disk drive covers, bezels, etc., were cast.  It is a smart innovation to take that process into making molds for sand casting.

There are limitations, of course; many parts in cars are made from cast metal, but many are not.

Shadetree Engineer
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Re: 3D model making isn't 3D metal printing
Shadetree Engineer   1/10/2013 5:39:33 AM
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Well, the article could've gone into a bit more detail, but I think 'selective laser sintering' was mentioned?  I've seen a process like that years back where a metal powder is sintered into a 3D shape using a high-powered laser. Then the 3D part is cleaned of loose powder, cured in an oven and then dipped into molten bronze. Capillary action draws the bronze throughout the entire part. The finished piece is then just as strong as traditional cast bronze. Ever since, I've thought about making boat propellors this way.

CLMcDade
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Re: 3D model making isn't 3D metal printing
CLMcDade   1/10/2013 10:56:41 AM
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Based on the text of the article, it seems like the headline could be considered a little misleading and that might explain some of the disparate directions of the discussion. 

The article describes a conventional casting process for the metal prototype parts arrived at more quickly by using a rapid prototype created model to form the sand around.

The headline on the other hand, infers the direct creation of a metal part by the rapid prototyping machine.  This would be a pretty incredible accomplishment, improving on the multi-step process currently used, nicely described by Shadetree.

Regardless, it was a great article from a product design standpoint.  We were taught to model our concepts during the brainstorming, development and finalization stages.  This serves multiple purposes, the two most important being 1) overlooked elements, like interference, fit, ergonomic factors show up when you have a 3D part to manipulate and assemble; and 2) the process of creating it in 3D and then studying it in 3D can inspire new directions or improvements.

While 3D CAD systems like Creo and Solidworks have improved the "on paper" phase of design, 3-D prototypes still can't be beat.  As rapid prototyping methods explode and evolve, the technology will only help the design process steps described above. 

And it will certainly eliminate a lot of X-acto blade cuts and burned fingers from hot melt glue while making foam core or blue foam models.

Ann R. Thryft
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3D metal direct manufacturing does exist
Ann R. Thryft   1/10/2013 11:45:14 AM
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What are called "direct manufactured" metal parts, not just molds for casting, ARE being built by 3D printing methods, primarily SLS (selective laser sintering). The machines that do this are in a very different class from the machines that make prototypes or use plastic as a material. Concept Laser, mentioned in this article
http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=256731&dfpPParams=ind_183,industry_auto,bid_27,aid_256731&dfpLayout=blog
makes machines (not the one featured in that article) that make both molds and parts.
NASA is making rocket engine parts, not molds:
http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=254513
ExOne makes both sand casting molds and near-net metal parts with their machines:
http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=252293
And 3D printing has been used to directly manufacture titanium parts for medical applications including implants.



eafpres
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Re: 3D metal direct manufacturing does exist
eafpres   1/11/2013 11:16:13 AM
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Ann--you are correct, but the article was not written well and headlined in a more sensational manner than necessary.  Lots of progress is being made, but the over-hype is already creating ripples in the investment communities and could actually serve to slow progress if funding is pulled back from innovative start ups.

It seems most of the fully functional metal parts made are done in very, very expensive machines, for very unique problems, and while faster and lower cost than, say, machining and welding titanium, are quite a ways from more mundane applications.

I think it would have been better to serve the audience by highlighting what Ford is actually accomplishing by commiting to an approach thereby making it available to their teams.  Over the years since 3D "printing" began appearing in engineering shops, it often was championed only by engineers, and management didn't have a long view.  The cost of in-house printing a decade ago scared off most bean counters.  What Ford is doing is changing the game from a contentious discussion on the value of a technology to one of resource availbility and "what can we do with this to be more competitive".  That is the key take-away for me.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: 3D metal direct manufacturing does exist
Ann R. Thryft   1/11/2013 11:44:51 AM
I think it's more important to point out what accomplishments are being achieved by 3D printing. It's been used for so long for prototypes only--or by hobbyists--that that's what most people think of when they hear the term. Consequently, many don't think that printing big production parts in metal is possible--but it is. As is often the case in a technology area, the high end is where the bleeding edge occurs, and where the dollars are concentrated, and therefore that's where the next big breakthroughs in what's possible occur. Of course it's expensive and addresses small markets--that's the nature of the territory. Eventually, those technologies get proved out and become available to larger markets.

eafpres
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Re: 3D metal direct manufacturing does exist
eafpres   1/11/2013 12:07:10 PM
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Hi Ann--that makes sense.  Any chance you will do more coverage on the mcor's IRIS printer which makes 3D models out of paper layers?  I think with some development that technology could also be used to make sand molds--I beleive that some molds used to be made by burning the form out of the sand mold then casting.  It would be easy to burn or digest the paper form and have a good quality sand mold.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: 3D metal direct manufacturing does exist
Ann R. Thryft   1/11/2013 12:54:32 PM
Funny you should ask :) I cover high end AM and 3D printing, but not the prototypes or software. That's the CAD/CAM Corner  blog. My ex-colleague Beth Stackpole, who used to have that beat, covered the pre-Iris paper Mcor technology here
http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1394&doc_id=238107
and my current colleague Cabe Atwell, who has that beat now, covered the Iris in a post that ran today
http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1394&doc_id=257141&itc=dn_analysis_element&

Shadetree Engineer
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Odd choice of photo
Shadetree Engineer   1/10/2013 5:32:54 AM
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I understand the printer shown is just what's used to share plastic prototypes, but without first showing us some of that laser sintering machinery, it's a bit disconcerting at first!  I'm just wondering when the term 'rapid prototyping' becomes an outdated expression, where 'rapid manufacturing' is the new buzz and we can all talk about the merits of 'instant prototyping'!  By the way, I don't recall the name, but I did see a company specilaizing in 3D printing plastic cores to be used for sand casting. The plastic was designed to burn out just like a 'lost wax' technique, and was intended for applications including engine blocks.

fredt
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3d printing
fredt   1/10/2013 1:13:00 PM
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I am very enthusiastic about the new technology and the lower costs associated with the application.  It has great appeal to the small business with little time and resources to devote to prototyping.  As with all new technologies, it does open new opportunities for the unscrupulous to copy legitimate products such as car parts, aircraft parts, guns and other items that are copyrighted or controlled.  I wonder when the time will come that all of  small machine shops will have regular visits from all the alphabet soup agencies.  Oh well, progress is the game.

cheesewhiz
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Re: 3d printing
cheesewhiz   1/23/2013 3:12:15 PM
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"it does open new opportunities for the unscrupulous to copy legitimate products such as car parts, aircraft parts, guns and other items that are copyrighted or controlled" ... I don't understand, i can reverse engineer any part for my own use copyrighted or controlled ... as along as i don't sell it 

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