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Posted by: Peter Zelinski 24. July 2014

GE Brings Production-Volume Additive Manufacturing to Alabama

GE Aviation has announced that the LEAP jet engine fuel nozzle—the nozzle (shown) with a design made possible by additive manufacturing—will be mass-produced in Auburn, Alabama, starting next year. Up to 10 additive manufacturing machines will be installed at the company’s plant in Auburn, which was opened last year.

Additive manufacturing capacity will increase from there, the company says. Production demand for the new fuel nozzle is scheduled to ascend steeply, growing from an initial rate of 1,000 units per year to 40,000 per year by 2020. GE says the Auburn site could ultimately have more than 50 additive manufacturing machines, with nozzle production expanding to occupy a third of the facility.

Those nozzles will be sent to an even newer engine production plant in Lafayette, Indiana, that is scheduled to open next year. This $100 million plant, which will include both CNC machining and assembly, will be the seventh new U.S. manufacturing site in seven years for GE Aviation.

Posted by: Derek Korn 23. July 2014

Remember Fadal? It’s Back

We recently learned that Fadal Engineering and Merrill Technologies Group (MTG), both based out of Michigan, have joined forces to launch a new Fadal CNC machine tool product line.

Fadal was a leading VMC producer before closing its manufacturing facility in Chatsworth, California, in 2008. With this new endeavor, Fadal machines will be manufactured in Michigan and California and sold globally through a distributor network. The company will launch its new Classic series VMC at this year’s IMTS in association with Ingersoll Cutting Tools (Booth  W-1822). The Classic series, including the VMC2516, VMC3016, VMC4020, VMC6030 and VMC8030, is said to mirror the legacy boxway machine models for which Fadal was known. Fadal says it has updated these models with the latest in engineering enhancements, too.

Michael Naert, Fadal’s vice president of operations, says Fadal machines offer 220 foot-pounds of torque and a CAT-40 spindle that incorporates Big Plus technology. The new Fadal CNC-64MP control is said to function with the same language and compatibility of the legacy Fadal CNC-88, CNC-88HS and CNC-32MP models with greater processing power and speed. The company is also offering CNC horizontal turning centers including the FG5, FL6, FL8, FL8L, FL10 and FL12 models.

Later in 2014, Fadal will release its VMC Performance series, offering larger travels, greater weight capacity, higher rapid traverse rates and higher CAT-50 spindle speeds. In 2015, it will introduce its Heavy series with large machining and turning capacity, making it desirable for the energy, off-road, aerospace and defense markets.

“There is something kind of nostalgic about bringing a once family-owned company back to its roots,” says Robert Yackel, CEO of family-owned MTG and now Fadal Engineering. “The founding family of Fadal was a lot like my family. Entrepreneurial, hardworking, resourceful and determined. We’re proud to lead Fadal into its next era of success.”

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 22. July 2014

Video: Additive Manufacturing at Linear Mold

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Linear Mold & Engineering is a company realizing a range of possibilities for additive manufacturing. The company uses production 3D printing not only to “grow” metal parts that couldn’t be made any other way, but also to create mold inserts that have cooling lines conforming to the curves of the mold for superior heat transfer.

Christina Fuges and I (co-editors of Additive Manufacturing) visited Linear to film this video.

Posted by: Emily Probst 21. July 2014

Hexagon Acquires Vero Software

Hexagon AB, a global provider of design, measurement and visualization technologies, has announced the acquisition of Vero Software, a UK-based CAM software supplier. Vero’s software aids the design and manufacturing process with solutions for programming and controlling machine tools. According to Hexagon, the software addresses the rising challenge of achieving manufacturing efficiencies with high-quality output.

Vero Software’s brands include Alphacam, Cabinet Vision, Edgecam, Radan, SurfCAM, Visi, and WorkNC. The company has offices in the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, United States, Brazil, the Netherlands, China, Korea, Spain and India, supplying products to more than 45 countries through its wholly owned subsidiaries and reseller network.

The acquisition is said to strengthen Hexagon’s software offerings, providing the means to close the gap of making quality data fully actionable by extending the reach of the newly developed metrology planning software (MMS) to include CAM (manufacturing planning software).

“Together with its unique suite of manufacturing software solutions, Vero Software has the expertise, knowledge and resources to deliver even higher levels of productivity to our customers,” says Hexagon President and CEO Ola Rollén. “Leveraging our global footprint, the synergies from our combined technologies will advance our strategy, supporting the growing need to integrate all data and processes across the manufacturing lifecycle.”

Vero Software will be fully consolidated as of August 2014 (closing being subject to regulatory approval) and will positively contribute to Hexagon's earnings, Hexagon says. The company's turnover for 2013 amounted to approximately 80 million Euros.

Posted by: Mark Albert 18. July 2014

Chasing after Volumetric Accuracy

Chasing a precision sphere with a spindle probe as the sphere moves with the machine’s pallet throughout its five-axis machining range is the key to the new method.

One of the toughest challenges in five-axis machining of large parts is maintaining accuracy throughout the entire work zone. Ideally, a five-axis machine can produce results with the same accuracy when cutting in the far corners of the work zone or at its center. Grob Systems has developed a method of checking and compensating for possible distortions to a machine’s structure caused by the weight of a massive workpiece when machined in five axes.

Grob, a manufacturer of five-axis universal machines and production systems, says its new method improves accuracy of five-axis machines, especially those called upon to produce large, complex parts and components for critical applications. This is a summary of the company’s explanation of how this new system works:

The traditional approach to improving machine accuracy was to use laser interferometry to compensate the position accuracy of the individual axis, and the ball bar measurement to improve the perpendicularity between the axes. This is a simple technique and useful only for the three linear axes of the machine. When the spindle and table start moving around the work envelope, infinitely more deviations (both translational and rotary) come into play. That is the fundamental problem, and it becomes exponentially more complex when two additional rotational axes are introduced.

To improve the process for increasingly complex machines, Siemens pioneered the use of a six-dimensional pictorial compensation map. A 3D laser is used to simultaneously measure yaw and axis alignment, feeding data back to the machine’s control. The resulting picture is comprised of many, many points throughout the work zone. This created a much better measurement of geometry and positioning, allowing the CNC to compensate for distortion and improve volumetric accuracy anywhere in the work zone.

The limitation also of this approach is that the checks and compensation take place on the factory floor during final assembly, and it is available only for linear axes. In the real world, once you put a part on the pallet everything changes. Consider the capacity of some larger five-axis machines to accommodate loads up to 3,000 pounds. When a mass of that size is put into rotation on a five-axis machine, possibly suspended at 90 degrees, it creates a powerful force for distortion on any machine.

Simultaneous to the software developments at Siemens, Grob developed a function called Automatic Kinematics Adjustment. This process locates the true center of rotation, which is critical to accuracy in a five-axis work zone. It works like this: A spindle probe is paired with a precision sphere mounted on the pallet. A kinematic cycle touches probe to sphere, and then rotates to reposition the rotary axis. Repeat. Chasing the sphere around the five-axis envelope in this manner identifies the true center of rotation. The process takes about 10 minutes.

Grob has now integrated its kinematic process with the Siemens software to create what it calls the Volumetric Compensation System (VCS) for shop floor use. VCS applies the same basic software package used for Automatic Kinematic Adjustment, but takes it beyond the center of rotation. A probe stored in the tool magazine chases the sphere to map positional accuracy all around the work zone. By spinning and rotating the pallet, the probe identifies any rotational or translational deviation—from top to bottom of the Y stroke, maximum X to maximum Z and everything in between. The measured deviations are sent to the compensation software, which then perfects positioning accuracy. The process can applied to any critical component assigned to the Grob machine.  

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