News that Cincinnati Inc. and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have signed a partnership agreement to develop a large-scale additive manufacturing system capable of printing polymer components up to 10 times larger than currently producible, and at speeds 200 to 500 times faster than existing additive machines is exciting. Especially so, when you consider that present additive manufacturing systems, which are the result of 20+ years of research and development, have not yet achieved such speeds or large build area. However, Cincinnati Inc. plans to use linear motor technology to deliver the speed and size; an interesting idea that might work, especially with a powder bed additive process.
The cooperative research and development agreement between the two parties aims to introduce significant new capabilities to the U.S. machine tool sector. A prototype of the large-scale additive machine is in development using the chassis and drives of Cincinnati’s gantry-style laser cutting system as the base, with plans to incorporate a high-speed cutting tool, pellet feed mechanism and control software for additional capability.
Cincinnati Inc. has experience in designing, making and controlling large-scale manufacturing systems. The company was the first laser cutting system manufacturers to use high-speed linear-motor axis drives, developed in-house, with accelerations exceeding 2.0G and head positioning speeds of up to 10,000 in./min. The proprietary linear motor drives deliver positioning accuracy of ±0.001 in. per axis, with work envelopes up to 8 ft. x 20 ft. (2.5 m x 6 m). The company has used this technology in its installed base of high-speed laser cutting systems, so this machine platform has been field tested and proven to be virtually trouble free.
“As one of the oldest U.S. machine tool makers, with continuous operation since 1898, we view this as an opportunity to start a new chapter in our history,” said Andrew Jamison, CEO Cincinnati Inc. “Over the years, we’ve supplied more than 40 metal working machine tools to Oak Ridge and its subcontractors. Now, working together, we intend to lead the world in big-area additive manufacturing for prototyping and production.”
The partnership supports the Energy Department’s “Clean Energy Manufacturing” initiative to increase the efficiency of U.S. manufacturing and continue the development of innovative technologies. “The agreement with Cincinnati Inc. exemplifies ORNL’s strong commitment to working with industry to move our innovations into real-world applications,” said ORNL Director Thom Mason. “These partnerships come with the potential for significant energy and economic impacts.”