Peter Zelinski has been a writer and editor for Modern Machine Shop for more than a decade. One of the aspects of this work that he enjoys the most is visiting machining facilities to learn about the manufacturing technology, systems and strategies they have adopted, and the successes they’ve realized as a result. Pete earned his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Cincinnati, and he first learned about machining by running and programming machine tools in a metalworking laboratory within GE Aircraft Engines. Follow Pete on Twitter at Z_Axis_MMS.
Satellites and spacecraft components are excellent candidates for additive manufacturing. One reason is that weight is critical—every ounce saved is an ounce that does not have to be launched into space. Another reason is that these parts are typically made of materials that are hard to machine. Still another reason is that the parts are made in low quantities. Additive manufacturing is unfazed by any of these challenges—part complexity, the machinability of the metal and the smallness of the batch size all do not affect its cost or difficulty.
We recently wrote about how additive manufactured components are on their way to Jupiter in the Juno spacecraft. Another spacefaring success now comes from Airbus, which recently shifted the brackets that hold reflectors and other hardware on satellites to additive manufacturing. Redesigning the brackets for this additive production allowed Airbus to use less material, ultimately cutting nearly 1 kilogram per satellite.
Learn more about the application in this report from EOS.
Jon Baklund of Baklund R&D has a distinctive approach to marketing that I described in this article. The Minnesota shop owner does not score his business development reps’ efforts on how much business they bring in, but instead on how many live contacts they make with prospects. That’s it. His theory is that spreading awareness and continuing to establish and build positive relationships—without being pushy about getting business—is ultimately going to translate to more business in the long term.
He even tracks these positive contacts with prospects as a real-time business performance metric for all of the shop to see. In the various bar graphs on the right side of this shopfloor display, the green bar tracks business shipped relative to the shop’s costs across various time horizons. All employees know that 80 percent is the break-even on this bar. The business is making a profit above that. Meanwhile, the blue bar in each of these graphs displays a score based on a system Mr. Baklund devised to show the number and quality of direct contacts the business development reps have made. In other words, both the manufacturing personnel and the marketing personnel are generating real-time metrics for all of the company to see.
Machining verification and simulation software developer CGTech says it prefers to develop its software capabilities internally rather than licensing capabilities that were developed outside. It made an exception in the case of Vericut Force, a physics-based machining optimization tool newly made available for the company’s Vericut software. This resource was developed not by another software company, but by manufacturer United Technologies Corporation, or UTC, the OEM owner of Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky, Otis Elevator and other industrial brands.
Within UTC, streamlining machining processes using the optimization tool, which was formerly called PromptFM, has cut some cycle times by 50 percent. The company manufacturing leaders and researchers involved in developing the utility therefore want to see it used by company suppliers (ultimately saving cost for UTC). To realize this hope, however, the company needed an established software provider willing to back the product and support its users. Allowing CGTech to adopt it was the answer.
Vericut software from CGTech already has machining feed rate optimization capability. This existing optimization is based on the simulated sweep of the tool’s envelope through the workpiece material. Feed rate changes are calculated from changes in the area of the tool’s material engagement throughout the cut. By contrast, Vericut Force’s optimization draws on modeling of the cut based on metalcutting theory combined with machining experimentation. UTC researchers ran and monitored cutting trials with various tools at various conditions, then interpolated within those results and iteratively refined the software until it produced recommendations that accord with real-world testing.
CGTech says the result is more effective optimization of the cut when cutting conditions are unusual or extreme. Its existing optimization and Vericut Force produce similar results during typical roughing in freer-machining metals, but in finishing hard metals with complex cutter contact conditions, for example, the UTC system offers feed rate recommendations that are nearer to the ideal for that cut.
The initial release of Vericut Force is to UTC companies and their suppliers. The existence of this potential customer base was part of the business case that made licensing the external software product appealing to CGTech. After proving out the new option with these customers, the company says it will extend its availability to the rest of Vericut’s users.
One advantage of additive manufacturing is the freedom to reduce part weight by growing parts that are not solid, but instead have internal lattice or honeycomb structures. The next step is to take this line of thinking farther by choosing or developing materials that are inherently better at making strong lattices.
The sample parts here illustrate the potential. 3D printer maker Stratasys recently announced the availability of thermoplastic material ASA for its line of fused deposition modeling (FDM) printers. In these printers, the most commonplace material used to make functional parts is ABS. Intended for appearance products and products used outdoors, ASA has better aesthetics and better resistance to UV radiation. The latter material also has better mechanical properties, and this benefit can be leveraged in the part design.
With its greater strength, ASA “bridges” better, meaning thin walls or fins used to connect two part details can be trusted to reach farther in ASA. The dumbbell samples show the result. While the part at right uses a lattice design to save weight, the part at left takes advantage of the strength of ASA to realize a more efficient lattice that realizes even greater weight and material savings.
In addition to making either metal or plastic parts, one other production application of additive manufacturing is building in sand to create molds for casting without any need for a pattern. Users include Ford and Hoosier Pattern. From Viridis3D now comes this video of a system that uses a robot to additively produce one-off sand mold components on a conveyor. The company says it is looking for beta sites for this system.