Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
About four years ago, Russ Kappius—mountain-bike enthusiast, winner of six Masters racing titles, and a research geophysicist/software developer—became obsessed with bicycle hubs. After working out a design for an oversized hub and high-performance drive assembly that would transfer more power from pedal to chain to wheel, Kappius patented the concept and began looking for a way to fabricate the parts.
For two years, Kappius and his son, Brady (an engineer and pro mountain-bike rider), field-tested versions of their hub and tweaked its design. The team tested traditional subtractive manufacturing methods such as water-jet cutting and wire electrical discharge machining (WEDM). WEDM proved satisfactory for production, but required a fairly long turnaround time and could only fabricate 2.5D geometries, a constraint to component shape. Continue reading →
The nature of manufacturing is undergoing a fundamental shift. Thanks to additive manufacturing (AM), products or prototypes that used to take days or weeks to construct can now be completed in hours. Companies are beginning to wake up to the potential of AM, and are looking for ways to educate themselves about the technology, and to leverage the power of 3D printing.
In the US, NAMII is one center for innovation, education and development, but it isn’t the only place where there’s a focus on AM. Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Manufacturing Demonstration Facility also provides research assistance, as well as opening access to industrial AM systems to a variety of businesses. Stratasys has formed a partnership with ORNL, and other companies are following its lead. Continue reading →
Big business is looking into new ways of adapting additive manufacturing (AM) to improve not only the design process, but the production process as well. In the aerospace industry, Airbus and Aerosud are developing large scale AM facilities to produce major components of aircraft (such as entire wings). Now the automotive industry has invested in large-scale AM.
The Fraunhofer Institute of Laser Technology has partnered with Concept Laser to produce a large-scale AM system at the behest of Daimler. This is a story I’ve been following for a while, but details have been sparse. Euromold 2012 provided a few missing puzzle pieces, which I can now share with confidence. Continue reading →
“Democratization” is a word I hear a lot of people throw around when talking about additive manufacturing (AM). What they mean by that is 3D printing offers regular people the opportunity to design something specifically for their needs. A single AM-created object doesn’t have the expenses involved with traditional manufacturing and doesn’t need to be manufactured in bulk.
We’ve covered a few examples of how 3D printing has helped individuals, but most of those efforts have come as part of a larger program or business. True democratization occurs when an individual, or, at most, a small group of people designs the solution to a specific problem and realizes a finished product completely (or mostly) on its own.
I generally enjoy covering additive manufacturing (AM). One of the few sticky areas is process terminology. Different companies call the same process by wildly different names. For example, what Stratasys calls Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), 3D Systems calls plastic jet printing, and the RepRap community calls fused filament fabrication (FFF).
The processes use an extruder head to lay down layers of thermoplastic to create objects in roughly the same way. More people recognize FDM than plastic jet printing or fused filament fabrication. Stratasys, which developed the technology, has trademarked the phrase Fused Deposition Modeling. As a result, 3D Systems and members of the RepRap project don’t call what is basically the same technology by the same name.
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