Here's a quick update about two of the many exhibitors that caught my attention at September's IMTS 2012 in Chicago. I'll do more as I can. The event now includes an Industrial Automation North America (IANA) conference and exhibitor component produced by Deutsche Messe, the folks who do the Hannover Fair. In a show dominated by machining centers, I found a quite different machine process that doesn't cut metal or composites to make industrial-grade parts. It builds parts layer by layer.
Additive manufacturing, some of the methods are called 3D printing, is an area I need to learn more about. About half a dozen companies exhibited machines of various types of this technology. In the Emerging Technologies Center, ExOne (exone.com) demo-ed one of its machines, and the best way to describe them--from the 10,000 ft. level--is that these are giant inkjet printers with a z-axis. They selectively dispense chemical binder into thin layers of powdered metal or plastics. This additive process creates parts or molds for parts directly from an immense amount of CAD data. Its sweet spot is simplifying and reducing the cost of complex parts, including those with manufacturing quantities that make molds too costly. Production scale could be rendered unimportant. Think about that for a minute.
More on their machine process control systems later.
I also visited the MAG booth to find its cryogenic tool-cooling process for machining titanium. It got a lot of attention at IMTS 2010 with claims of much faster cutting, much longer tool life, and significant environmental advantages.. In the titanium-cutting world, it was a big deal as it moved out of the development stage.
MAG displayed the process on a new 5-axis HMC, and on a retrofitted customer VMC. The focus has been on the hardest materials such as titanium, nickel-based alloys, and compacted-graphite iron (CGI), although MAG engineers maintain that the ROIs should work for less-difficult materials. While they can’t prove it yet, they claim that the economics of the environmental savings and simplicity of eliminating flood cooling and its accompanying headaches will be shown to stand on its own.
The process recently was approved by the U.S. government for roughing titanium components for the F-35 stealth fighter, and MAG expects to have finished machining approvals by early 2013.
Here's my original mention of this at IMTS 2010. Read "Change the Game."
Here's a video of the MAG machine:
MAG's game changing Cryogenic Machining technology provides a 10 times tool life increase in Titanium machining.
Here's a video of ExOne's 3D printing:
3D metal printing
How It's Made: 3D Metal Printing (Courtesy of Ex One)