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Posted by: Stephanie Hendrixson 31. March 2016

Freedom in Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing

Sciaky’s EBAM system is equipped with two wire feeders that travel with the electron beam head, enabling the building of large parts.  

Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) holds plenty of possibilities for metal AM applications. The process builds parts using an electron beam to melt metal wire that travels with the beam head. In contrast to powder bed systems in which the size of the part is limited by the size of the bed, parts built on an EBAM system can be as large as the machine’s travels permit.

This capacity for building large parts plus its speed gives EBAM clear potential as an alternative to forging. Like forging, it is a near-net-shape process capable of building large forms. But unlike forging, it requires no die or other tooling, making it faster and more flexible. EBAM can provide design freedoms in geometry that forging cannot.

But perhaps more significantly, EBAM also provides material freedom. Chicago-based Sciaky has developed an EBAM system that allows for two different wires to be fed into the machine. This dual-fed system could be used to deposit two spools of wire simultaneously, increasing throughput, or loaded with both large-diameter and fine wire to provide a range of detail. However, its greatest potential may lie in the ability to blend wires of two different alloys within the same build, creating a proprietary alloy or even a gradient between materials. 

Read more about the possibilities of EBAM and how Lockheed Martin is building propellant tank components with this technology on Additive Manufacturing magazine’s website. 


Posted by: Matt Danford 30. March 2016

Waterjet, Laser, or EDM... or Another Option?

Micro Waterjet systems are designed specifically for small, intricate work.

For the most part, it’s perfectly okay to make broad generalizations about technology. Milling is faster than EDM; shrink-fit holders offer better runout than collet chucks; a spindle not turning is a spindle not making money. A set of widely held assumptions can provide a common foundation that enables talking about—and also writing about—complex topics without getting too bogged down in details. Nonetheless, it’s important to recognize that generalized statements and assumptions are just that: generalized statements and assumptions. As the saying goes, every rule has an exception.

One such exception was detailed in this white paper. It provides a basic overview of some of the most commonly cited pros and cons of three competing (and often complementary) technologies that are often employed for intricate work: laser cutting, wire EDM and waterjet. Most of the information wasn’t all that surprising to me. After all, MMS has covered the interplay of these technologies before. However, a significant portion of the white paper was focused on a particular subset of one of these technologies, a version of waterjet cutting that doesn’t share some of the most commonly cited limitations of that process.

At least, not according to the author of the paper, which specializes in this technology. Micro Waterjet LLC’s machines cut with an accuracy of ±0.01 mm and positioning accuracy of ±0.003 mm. Such capability belies the notion that waterjet’s relatively thick, abrasive infused cutting streams limit precision and the ability to cut delicate materials compared to EDM or laser.

MMS first covered this development back in 2010, prior to its introduction at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) that year.  Other manufacturers have also been pursuing applications of waterjet for smaller work (and it wouldn’t surprise me to discover some innovation in laser cutting or EDM that doesn’t jibe with the accepted wisdom either). In any case, whether due to broader technology advancements or a product that’s truly different, it’s important to check your assumptions and truly research any potential process changes, however confident you are in your knowledge and experience.

Have you employed any technology or processes that offer more capability than generally accepted wisdom might suggest? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.


Posted by: Russ Willcutt 29. March 2016

Improving a Popular Mill-Turn Control

Heidenhain has added new cycles and features to its TNC 640 high performance mill-turn control such as enhanced graphics, interpolation turning and gear hobbing capabilities.

While making shop visits I’ve noticed that most programmers and operators tend to prefer a particular make of machine control over others. Devotees of the Heidenhain TNC 640 contouring control for mill-turn machines will be pleased to learn of new features now available on this unit, in particular one that allows for hobbing external cylindrical and helical gear teeth.

Known as Cycle 880, this machining process is performed through synchronization of the tool and lathe spindles. The cycle positions the rotary axis to the required tilting position and performs the infeed movements to the workpiece in the radial direction, and the milling movements in the axial direction.

The latest version of the TNC 640 also includes a new graphics package with a CAD viewer that opens any *.Step, *.Iges and/or *.Dxf file and allows an operator to evaluate the workpiece at the control. In addition, a new interpolation turning feature is available that is especially well suited for manufacturing large, rotationally-symmetric sealing surfaces, the company says, and for machining the housings of components of power plant technology in energy generation applications.

The TNC 640’s new graphics package includes a CAD viewer that opens any *.Step, *.Iges and *.Dxf file and allows an operator to evaluate the workpiece at the control.

Machine tool builders will appreciate the optional Dynamic Collision Monitoring (DCM), for which Heidenhain created a M3D converter. This is a PC tool with which CAD files of components in the machining envelope can be merged, edited and added to the collision monitoring program. Watch a video of the TNC 640 here. Also consider making an appointment to visit the company’s five-axis machining lab in Schaumburg, Illinois, which features a new machining center equipped with the TNC 640 control.
 


Posted by: Peter Zelinski 28. March 2016

The Subtle Clue That a Spindle Is About to Fail

Tech Manufacturing runs the spindles hard on its five-axis profilers. The Missouri shop uses these machines to take heavy cuts at high speed for machining large aircraft parts. Periodic spindle replacement is a fact of life and an acceptable cost for this shop.

But the problem was that spindle failure was occurring by surprise. Analysis of machine performance data revealed spindle replacement to be the leading cause of unplanned maintenance downtime for the shop. If this event could instead be planned maintenance downtime, so the shop could schedule spindle replacement within its workflow, then that change would represent a meaningful efficiency improvement. In short, the shop needed to find a way to predict that a spindle was about to fail.

The team members here searched for the telling clue. They tried periodic tap testing. They tried drawbar force tests.

The reliable indicator proved to be temperature.

Just after a milling cycle, the temperature inside one of the profiler’s spindle tapers is generally about 120°F (49°C). But observation of this temperature over time revealed that it reliably increases as the spindle begins to near the end of its life. The increase comes early enough that the shop has time to order a new spindle and schedule the needed replacement.

Now, the shop watches this indicator. Employees routinely measure spindle temperature in search of this increase. They use a digital thermometer for this measurement, but it is possible that this precise device is not even needed.  Now that the team members running the profilers are aware of this effect, they can often detect it in the heat of the toolholders when they are manually changing out tools between jobs.

Transforming unplanned spindle replacement into planned maintenance was part of a broad process improvement effort for Tech Manufacturing. Read more about that effort.


Posted by: Emily Probst 25. March 2016

Amerimold: of Interest Well Beyond Mold Manufacturing

It’s the nature of mold manufacturing that some of the most advanced machining processes, latest production strategies, leading CAD/CAM software and most promising cutting tools are applied in this industry first. So, while Amerimold is billed as the event for mold manufacturing, there’s plenty of useful information for shops that want to stay up on state of the art in machining and manufacturing technology.

Amerimold connects more than 2,750 of the top owners, executives and engineers involved in the plastic injection mold manufacturing industry. Attendees will see the latest machine tools, materials, tooling, software, services and components for mold manufacturing.

Specific topics include mold design; lights-out machining; shopfloor automation; tooling and workholding; EDM; five-axis machining; mold maintenance; and material selection.

This year’s expert panel includes speakers from leading contract mold manufacturers like Unique Tool and Gauge and Crest Mold Technology; product technology suppliers like Makino and GF Machining Solutions; and materials and software providers including Open Mind Technologies, HRS Flow and Ellwood Specialty Steel. There is even the “Build” conference track focused specifically on die and mold machining solutions.

Along with the technical program, Amerimold will feature more than 125 exhibitors displaying products and serves for moldmaking and injection molding. The event also offers unique business networking events aimed at connecting mold builders, mold buyers and equipment suppliers.

Amerimold, the event for mold manufacturing, takes place June 15-16 in Novi, Michigan, at the Suburban Collection Showplace. Pre-registration, which extends through May 6, grants you free access to the exhibit hall and a discounted price on the conference. Full session schedules and registration are available here.


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