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Sciaky’s Direct Manufacturing Process Goes Big

To quote a song you may remember from the early ’80s, “Everything counts in large amounts.” This sentiment certainly seems to be the case in additive manufacturing (AM). One dominant trend in new AM systems is that of size. We’ve covered a number of the emerging giants of 3D printing, and the build envelopes just continue to increase.

Sciaky’s Direct Manufacturing (DM) process has moved from being able to print large parts to printing out entire wing boxes of fighter jets. DM boasts a build area of 19 ft. x 4 ft. x 4 ft., and is flexible enough in design that the build area could be increased to tackle larger jobs.

Sciaky Direct Manufacturing part

A large titanium part created for use in an airplane, built using Sciaky's Direct Manufacturing process. Courtesy of Sciaky.

According to its site, Sciaky’s DM process works by:

Starting with a 3D model from a CAD program, Sciaky’s fully-articulated, moving electron beam welding gun deposits metal, layer by layer, until the part is complete and ready for finish machining. Deposition rates typically range from 7 to 20 lbs/hr, depending upon part geometry and the material selected.

This process is good news for the aerospace industry, where highly complex parts have traditionally been manufactured using subtractive processes. AM reduces material waste, which can help save serious amounts of cash when working with materials such as titanium, tantalum and inconel. It’s no coincidence that Sciaky has partnered with Lockheed Martin, the US Air Force and DARPA to continue development.

Sciaky’s work was recently on display at the CIMP-3D Technology Showcase. In case you’ve been wondering what NAMII has been up to, CIMP-3D is the official Metals Node for NAMII, and is another Sciaky partner. All of the attention focused on Sciaky surely means the company has big plans for the future.

Of course, other companies, such as Aerosud, are also working on really large-scale AM systems, but none of them have any specifications or completed parts to show off to the public as of yet. The closest we’ve come to an AM-built aircraft so far is the AHRLAC, but that’s bound to change sooner, rather than later. Sciaky’s DM process has given us a wing, surely more is yet to come.

Check out Mark Clarkson’s article in Desktop Engineering on large-format 3D printing.

Below you can find a video about the Direct Manufacturing process.

Sources: Sciaky, Lockheed Martin

About John Newman

John Newman is a freelance writer in Northeast Ohio.

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