I agree that limited selection of materials is limiting the usage of such additive manufacturing machines. Based on an article published in MetalMiner, one EOS client that’s not a huge OEM (but supplies huge OEMs) is Morris Technologies in Cincinnati, Ohio. It appears that Morris was the first North American manufacturing firm to buy the EOSINT M 270 system, who employed a variety of metal powders of both well-known (e.g. Ti6Al4V) and lesser-known alloys that are used for tensile strength, hardness and durability in machined parts. However, according to the EOS website, there are only nine different powders in use, including Aluminum AlSi10Mg.
If this limitation is eased, I think there could be more usage of the additive manufacturing technology for high strength applications.
Dave, your recognition of the involvement of universities is greatly appreciated. In addition to our RP Center at MSOE, we also have a research division developing additive-based manufacturing techniques for metal-metal & metal-ceramic composites, as well as functionally-gradient and mutlifunctional components. Our graduate and undergraduate assistants are quite capable of weighing the advantages and disadvantages of their manufacturing options. They are, after all, involved in developing those options.
Reluctant acceptance and developing standards are the greatest hurdles that I see, followed by resolution and secular design software; but, these are all improving quickly.
The biggest hurdle I've seen in additive manufacturing is limitations in material selection and lack of agency rated "rapid prototyping" material. Standard SLA materials (as previously stated) have severe drawbacks when being considered for production quality products. For common SLA materials: If you want good looking surface aesthetics, you sacrifice functionality and vise versa, if you want functionality, you get a fuzzy part. Secondary finishing helps but has its limits. FDM can give you ABS and PC similar materials. Surface resolution is an issue here. Many times small features are lost due to the limitations in the laser sintering process.
There's nothing else to say about Agency Ratings except that in many applications, if the material doesn't have it...it can't be used in the product. (ex: UL, CE, FM, RoHS, [UV & FR])
Dave, thanks for your input on how university programs are evolving to meet this need. It will be interesting to see how many other schools follow suit and if this early exposure actually translates into widespread use.
I agree that thinking out of the box should entail examining all of your options and making the best choice based on the need. Every technology has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and you are right: Forward-thinking engineers will pour their creative energies into evaluating their options and making the best choice.
Beth, a growing number of universities include additive manufacturing in their undergraduate curricula. The Milwaukee School of Engineering was one of the first universities to get involved in additive manufacturing with their Rapid Prototyping Center which opened in 1991. The Center does a lot of work for industry (including my company) and employs a large number of undergraduate research assistants. My alma matter, the Illinois Institute of Technology, recently set up a 13,000 square foot facility; with multiple rapid prototyping machines for the exclusive use of undergraduates as part of their Interprofessional Projects Program. These days, even some community colleges are starting to get involved. Lorrain County Community College has a particularly impressive program.
On another note, I think it borders on the insulting for the marketing director of an additive manufacturing company to complain that engineers aren't thinking creatively simply because they aren't making more use of additive manufacturing. Essentially, she is blaming the customer for not buying her product. This doesn't seem like a very good attitude for a marketing director. As I pointed out, additive manufacturing is not the only way to produce a complex part such as this intake manifold. There are many options, all with their own advantages or disadvantages. Creative thinking means having the ability to navigate this complex terrain and choose the best option for a given application.
Perhaps getting more creative or thinking out of the box means exposure to many of these additive manufacturing technologies early on in schools so engineers actually equate them as options within their tool kits. 3D printing technologies are coming down in price and are slowly becoming part of the mainstream conversation so there's more exposure there. Not sure that's enough, though. Any idea if this set of tools and technologies is a regular part of the practical, hands-on curriculum at any of the major engineering programs?
I disagree that SLS is the only way to make that intake manifold. I think it could be made as an investment castung with soluble cores. The big challenge in making this part as an investment casting would be getting effective shell buildup on the internal passage, but I think that someone like Signicast would be up to the challenge. Another possibility would be lost foam casting, which is regularly used to make parts with complex internal passages. However, there would be a glue plane running through the middle of the part, which might or might not be acceptable.
I think rotational molding might be a way to make this as a plastic part, although I'm not very familiar with this process. Another possibility with plastics would be to split the part along the longitudinal axis, injection mold the two halves, and then ultrasonically weld them together. I'm sure there are other processes which could probably be used to make this part with a little ingenuity.
The moral of the story is, don't ever say, "This part can only be made using process X." There are always options, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
There was a very well-reported article published from Joseph Ogando http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=219519 "Rapid manufactering's role in the factory of the future" in 2007 at DesignNews already adressing a lot of question regarding these topic. In principle I think where customization and design is needed in product development, additive manufacturing is a suitable process, but still these are niche markets. On the other hand GE for example intensifies his focus on additive manufacturing for ultrasonic devices at the moment. But taking a closer look at their activities it seems that maybe one route of success for additive manufacturing, coming into the street of high volume production, is to combine this process with the traditional production processes. So my conclusion still is that engineers need not to think more creativly but should make the right choice out of their large toolbox at the right time - additive manufacturing being one of this tools.
Are there ways to reduce the high cost of additive manufacturing -- volume, process efficiencies? Of is additive manufacturing essentially a boutique process for specialized applications -- such as the Lotus intake manifold?
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