MMS Blog

The promise of additive manufacturing will be found in products that are designed for additive manufacturing—that is, products that take full advantage of the geometric freedom that 3D printing can realize. A recent successful example of this relates to milling cutters. Komet’s “Revolution” line of PCD milling tools includes tool bodies made through metal additive manufacturing to realize design features that include a flute density higher than what is possible on coventionally manufactured tools. When it comes to cutting edges made of PCD (polycrystalline diamond), more flutes on the tool translates directly to faster feed rate. Thus, Komet is actually using additive manufacturing to make subtractive manufacturing more productive.

Company director of production Cullen Morrison sees making tool bodies through 3D printing as being the way of the future, at least for PCD. This cutting tool material often can take advantage of all the flutes it can get, he says. It is capable of such high material removal rates in the materials it typically cuts—aluminum and carbon fiber composite—that the number of flutes can be the limiting factor on feed rate and productivity. This is increasingly true as facilities using this tooling adopt modern machine tools with high acceleration rates. However, obtaining a high number flutes is problematic in cutter bodies made through machining, because the small pockets resulting form high flute density have to be milled out painstakingly using light cuts with small tools. By contrast, additive manufacturing offers a different option.

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Read how complete form measurement data on complex bore interiors helps one specialist in precision tubular components hollow out an even more competitive niche. Read the full story on page 70.

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Most collaborative robots (cobots) use sensor technology to detect when they unexpectedly contact an object, be it a person or something else. They then immediately stop their motion to prevent injury or damage.

One step demonstrating the maturing of this technology is the development of end effectors designed specifically for those types of “human-friendly” robots. For example, Schunk’s Co-act line of grippers and actuators uses technology to prevent possible injury while gripping or when encountering a person while providing sufficient force so as not to mishandle a workpiece. Gripping force limitation can be activated for certain applications. Plus, gripper software evaluates and processes signals from the device’s environmental sensors, in essence, providing the gripper with artificial intelligence capabilities.

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Machine tools are finely tuned instruments capable of achieving high levels of precision. But the machine is only as good as its setup, and the accuracy with which it is installed is just as important as its build.

Machine tool builders have specified standards for what is acceptable for an installed machine. According to Don Schmedake of Hurco, the company's machine tools must achieve squareness within 5 tenths per foot for the X, Y and Z axes.

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Engineers at GE Power are cutting turbine blade cooling holes in a manner that, not long ago, would likely never even have been considered. As shown in the video above, the company is using laser, a process that’s renowned for its speed and precision. However, it’s also known for its tendency to leave tapered walls and to imbue the workpiece with geometry-distorting heat as well as machined sludge and other waste material that melts and re-adheres.

Yet, according to GE Reports, such issues aren’t a problem at the company’s Advanced Manufacturing Works facility in Greenville, South Carolina. That’s it is leveraging a different breed of laser cutting technology: Laser Microjet (LMJ), in which the laser beam is fully encased within a pressurized stream of water. Acting very much like a fiber optic cable, this water stream serves as a guide, a cooling mechanism and a cleaning agent all at once. As a result, the company can save significant time drilling turbine blade cooling holes by machining the holes prior to applying the coatings that can’t be penetrated with EDM drills, as opposed to drilling the holes, then removing coating residue.

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