Is 3D printing /Additive manufacturing shifting out of prototyping? You might think so after listening to the conversations at RAPID 2015 and the recent AMUG conference.
But really, prototyping is not going away. However, the conversation on how to create additive manufacturing (AM) systems for the factory operation is definitely heating up.
Nearly all the major AM vendors have announced something in the past few months that indicates the next goal is getting these systems onto the factory floor. Here’s a quick rundown on what is available.
–Concept Laser offers one of the largest build areas for laser melting: 31.5 in. x 16 in. x 20 in., with either a single or dual 1 kW laser in its X-line 1000R and 2000R additive machines.
–ExOne recently introduced its Exerial machine, which contains multiple industrial stations that allow for continuous production and simultaneous processing.
–Prodways uses Digital Light Processing (DLP) to process thermoplastic parts. Its PromakerV6000 was developed for the 3D additive manufacturing of composite parts, particularly ceramic and metal. It offers a unique processing capacity of highly viscous materials (pastes), combining throughput, resolution and precision. The ProMaker L5000 was designed to produce large quantities of parts at once while maintaining precision and accuracy, even on the smallest parts.
— Renishaw unveiled a machine that it is developing specifically for production manufacturing. Provisionally named EVO Project, this single material industrial production machine will include features that enable automation, monitoring, and reduced operator interaction.
–Mazak in now entering the AM market. It offers its INTEGREX i-400AM machine. This hybrid-multitasking machine combines the accuracy and finish of machining with metal 3D printing. Designed in partnership with Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies, the Integrex i-400 uses Ambit tool-changeable cladding heads.
–Trumpf is coming in as well, initially starting with partnerships. The company owns intellectual property on laser melting, so it is working with others to bring equipment to the factory.
–Sciaky offers electron beam additive manufacturing, introducing five new systems recently. The EBAM 300 has a large build are of 19 ft x 4 ft x 4 ft. Parts will need additional finishing after build.
–Stratasys with the Objet 1000 Plus offers a 39 in. by 31 in. by 19 in. build area. Developments here include faster throughput and less need for preventative maintenance.
And don’t forget the BAAM machines coming from Cincinnati Inc, one of which was used to build a car body at the IMTS Show last year.
Just a few years ago, the idea of using 3D printing as a serious manufacturing tool was a far away possibility. Today, it’s more of a probability.