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CNC Machining & 3D Printing: A Mixed Approach To Precision Manufacturing

CNC Machining & 3D Printing: A Mixed Approach To Precision Manufacturing

Peter Jacobs, Senior Director of Marketing at CNC Masters shares how a meaningful combination of CNC machining and 3D Printing can help manufacture even the most intricate parts and boost overall productivity.

The advancing 3D printing capabilities have made it convenient for manufacturers to use additive manufacturing to develop parts from a wide variety of materials. These materials include polymers such as ABS, PLA, TPE, and carbon fibre composites, polycarbonates, and nylon.

Alongside 3D printing, precision CNC machining also enjoys a crucial role in the additive manufacturing process, with a new process called hybrid manufacturing quickly assuming its hold in the industry.

Combining CNC machining and 3D printing can meet all crucial design requirements and eliminate limitations in these individual domains. 

Benefits of Combining Machining and 3D Printing

Here’s why the combination of CNC machining and 3D printing is relevant and the benefits that will follow:

  • Conservation of Time

The process of 3D printing a part and then having it delivered to the next section for CNC machining involves too many steps; however, this process is relatively less time-consuming relative to injection moulding.

In Injection moulding, the design and development of a specialised tool must go through every workpiece in the moulding process, making it more time-consuming.

While we can alternatively use 3D printed injection moulds to reduce production time, incorporating the potential of CNC machining can be more fruitful.

We can seamlessly tweak the digital files that end up getting 3D printed as prototypes rather than making alterations to an existing injection moulding machine tool.

  • Higher Tolerance Rate

3D printing has encountered hindrances in its progress due to the tolerances of modern 3D printers. Many end-use parts have specific tolerances and other vital requirements that are only feasible by incumbent manufacturing methods.

Unlike 3D printing, CNC machining is consistent. It offers a more refined product because its equipment does not exhibit sensitivity to heat as a 3D printer, which might warp and distort the product and result in uncertain runs of products.

Merging the two domains provides us with the perks of rapid prototyping brought to the table by 3D printers. It also enables us to dial in the tolerance from 0.1 mm to 0.3 mm as anticipated from a DMLS or SLS 3D printer to about 0.025 to 0.125 mm rendered by CNC Milling Machines.

  • Use a Bigger Workpiece

A congregation of these two domains involves 3D printing a part and then forwarding it to CNC milling to balance the final tolerances and providing it with the desired finish.

There has been excitements about merging these two technologies into one machine. This scenario could result in something that resembles the industrial-scale hybrid milling machines.

Such machines are speculated to harbour a build volume of about 40 feet in diameter and 10 feet in height. These hybrid 3D printing-milling machines can mill the surface of a new 3D print while the operation would still be underway.

With state-of-the-art CNC Benchtop Milling Machines, you can enjoy peak performance while occupying a minimum floor.

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The Essential Guide To CNC Milling Machines

The Essential Guide To CNC Milling Machines

For those who may be a new entrant to the industry and would need a refresher, this article explains CNC Milling Machines, how they work, how they compare to CNC Lathes, and when to use such CNC machine tools. Article by Hwacheon. 

Focused on milling – the process of machining using rotating tools to gradually remove material from a workpiece – CNC milling machines are a mainstay for factories around the world. These machine tools make use of a variety of cutting tools along one or more axes to remove material from a workpiece through mechanical means.

CNC milling machines are often used in a variety of manufacturing industries: from industries like aerospace, shipping, automobiles, and oil drilling/pumping and refining, to medical, FMC manufacturing, and precision engineering sectors.

Also called CNC Machining Centers, the more advanced CNC milling machines can operate along multiple-axis. These may be fitted with automatic tool changers, advanced machine coolant systems, pallet changers, and advanced software to improve the efficiency and accuracy of machining processes.

In this article, we will be looking at the many different aspects of a CNC milling machine/machining center.

What CNC Milling Machines Are

CNC milling machines are machine-operated cutting tools that are programmed and managed by computer numerical control (CNC) systems to accurately remove materials from a workpiece. The end result of the machining process is a specific part or product that is created using a computer aided design (CAD) software.

These machine tools are normally equipped with a main spindle and three-linear-axes to position or move the part to be machined. More advanced versions may have a 4th or 5th rotational axis to allow for more precise shapes of varying dimensions and sizes to be machined.

CNC milling machines normally employ a process of material cutting termed milling or machining – the milling process involves securing a piece of pre-shaped material (also known as the workpiece) to a fixture attached to a platform in the milling machine. A rapidly rotating tool (or a series of interchangeable tools) is then applied to the material to remove small chips of the material until the desired shape for the part is achieved.

Depending on the material used for the part, as well as the complexity of the machined part, varying axes, cutting head speeds, and feed rates may be applied.

Milling is normally used to machine parts that are not symmetrical from an axial perspective. These parts may have unique curvatures or surface contours, which may require a combination of drilling and tapping, grooves, slots, recesses, pockets and holes to work on them. They may also form parts of the tooling for other manufacturing processes – for example in the fabrication of 3D moulds. 

Features of Advanced CNC Milling Machines

In the past, milling machines were manually operated. Operators had to use a combination of machines with different tools to machine a more complex part or product. Or they had to use various settings on one machine just to complete the job. 

With the advancement of technology such as CNC and automatic tool changers (ATCs), greater efficiency, flexibility and speed can be achieved – even for more convoluted parts. The provision of digital readouts and measuring systems has also improved the accuracy of CNC machining processes. 

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3D Printing The Future Of E-Mobility Tools

3D Printing the Future of E-Mobility Tools

Kennametal’s 3D printed stator bore tool meets accuracy, roundness, and surface finish requirements of hybrid and electric vehicles.

Kennametal has developed a 3D printed stator bore tool specifically designed to meet growing customer demand for lighter weight tooling solutions used to machine components for hybrid and electric vehicles.

E-mobility components are typically machined on smaller, low horsepower CNC machining centres that require lighter weight tooling solutions. Kennametal’s 3D printed stator bore tool weighs half that of the conventionally manufactured version, while still meeting accuracy, roundness, and surface finish requirements for aluminium motor body boring.

“The main bore, which houses the stator of an electric motor measures approximately 250 mm in diameter (9.84 in) and approximately 400 mm (15.74 in) in length, with a smaller bearing bore at the bottom,” says Harald Bruetting, Manager, Program Engineering, at Kennametal. “When manufactured using conventional means, a reamer for this type of application would weigh more than 25 kg (55 lb), far too heavy for the existing machine tool or for an operator working with the tool.”

Bruetting and Kennametal’s Solution Engineering Group turned to the company’s in-house additive manufacturing capabilities to 3D-print a strong but lightweight indexable tool, equipped with proven Kennametal technologies including fine adjustable RIQ reaming inserts for high precision finishing and a KM4X adaptor for maximum rigidity. The tool also features internal 3D printed cooling channels that help maximize productivity and tool life.

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How 3D Printed Injection Moulds Can Reduce Production Time & Tooling Cost

How 3D Printed Injection Moulds Can Reduce Production Time & Tooling Cost

As we all know injection moulding requires high initial investment, specialist equipment and lead time for tooling, this can significantly hinder the speed and cost to introduce new products to the market. However, with the continuous advancements in additive manufacturing 3D printing technology is now offering a cost-cutting, agile alternative solution to quickly design and fabricate mould for small runs of thermoplastics prototypes or end-use parts.

What is injection moulding?

Injection moulding is one of the leading processes for manufacturing plastics as it yields high-quality parts and is cost effective. Widely used for mass-producing identical parts with tight tolerances, it is a fast, intensive process where high heat and pressure are involved to melt thermoplastic and force it inside a mould.

Because of these extreme moulding conditions, the tools are traditionally made out of metal by CNC machining or electric discharge machining (EDM). However, these are expensive industrial methods that require specialised equipment, high-end software, and skilled labour.

Manufacturers are now turning to 3D printing to fabricate injection mould rapidly and at low cost. They can benefit from the speed and flexibility of in-house 3D printing to create the mould and couple it with the production force of injection moulding to deliver a series of units from common thermoplastics in a matter of days.

Challenges

Even though 3D printing moulds can offer these advantages when used appropriately, there are still some limitations. We should not expect the same performance from a 3D printing polymer mould as from a machined metallic one. Critical dimensions are harder to meet, cooling time is longer because the thermal transfer occurs slower in plastic, and printed moulds can easily break under heat and pressure. However, low-run injection moulds are great assets for engineers to deliver limited batches of end-use parts or prototypes in the final plastic, for pre-production tests.

Unlocking in demand mould fabrication with stereolithography (SLA)

Stereolithography (SLA) printing technology is a great choice for moulding. It is characterised by a smooth surface finish and high precision that the mould will transfer to the final part and that also facilitates demoulding.

In a recent webinar, Formlabs discusses how SLA printing enables in-demand mould fabrication to generate hundreds of parts, from idea to production, in a matter of days, at a fraction of the cost. Catch the re-run of the webinar here, and learn:

  • Expert processes to design a 3D printed mould for injection moulding.
  • Which printing and moulding conditions ensure success, including an overview of the Formlabs resins that Novus Applications and Braskem use for the moulds.

Strategies for the post-processing workflow, including ejection and demoulding

Real-life applications

Access the full white paper here and have a closer look at how this hybrid manufacturing process enables on-demand mould fabrication to quickly produce small batches of thermoplastic parts through real-life case studies with Braskem, Holimaker, and Novus Applications.

For more information, click here for an overview of methods and guidelines for using SLA 3D printed moulds in the injection moulding process.

 

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First Mitsui Seiki Blue Arc Machine Installed At Aerodyn Engineering

First Mitsui Seiki Blue Arc Machine Installed At Aerodyn Engineering

Mitsui Seiki has produced the first commercial CNC machine tool that incorporates the Blue Arc HSEE (High Speed Electro Erosion) material removal process technology that is exclusively licensed by General Electric. The first “HW63TD BA” machine has been installed at Aerodyn Engineering, Indianapolis, IN. There, the two companies – Aerodyn and Mitsui Seiki – are partnering on multiple process development applications for their existing and prospective customers in aerospace, outer space, mold and die, power generation, oil and gas, and other critical component industries.

Fundamentally, Blue Arc HSEE is a non-conventional rough machining process utilising a controlled thermal metal removal method using a high-speed beam of electrons to erode and remove metal, driven by an electrical pulse between a tool electrode and a workpiece. Where EDM delivers a single point of material discharge, Blue Arc generates a multiple point discharge event resulting in rapid material removal. Blue Arc technology eliminates the need for high-powered spindles, highly engineered cutting tools, and reduces wear on the machine kinematics. It is known to be an extremely efficient roughing metal removal method for hard, difficult to machine alloys, such as nickel and titanium alloys as well as stainless and tool steels. Certain alloy components are being rough machined in a fraction of the conventional milling time and with less stress on the machine as Blue Arc is a non-contact method. The process can cut machine-tool capital costs by 30 percent or more and cutting tool costs by 70 percent, according to the company.

“We are excited to have the revolutionary Blue Arc technology in our facility to continue its development and showcase its remarkable benefits to manufacturers of hard metal parts,” said Robb Hudson, president and CEO of Aerodyn Engineering.

Providing more details about the specific Blue Arc machine installed at Aerodyn, the Mitsui Seiki HW63TD BA machine is a high performance 5-axis machining center platform featuring a standard CAT50 spindle. Basic specifications include an X, Y, Z axes work envelope of 1000mm (39.38”) in X and 850mm (33.46”) in Y and Z. The B and C rotary axes are driven at speeds of 60 and 90 rpm respectively. The machine also includes Fanuc drive motors and a Fanuc F30iM-B control system.

Mr. William (Bill) Malanche, COO of Mitsui Seiki USA, said, “There is a solid team in place at Aerodyn that is solely dedicated to the Blue Arc initiative. Both Robb Hudson and Cameron Perkins were both heavily involved in the development of the process and the machine with our company and GE when they were on staff at Mitsui Seiki. They have a deep understanding that will serve customers well to determine the optimal and most efficient applications for Blue Arc. From Mitsui Seiki’s perspective, having the BA machine installed at Aerodyn makes perfect sense for all involved, and it’s a thrill to see the machine ready, willing, and able to take on suitable projects.”

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Sandvik Invests In Leading AI-Powered Manufacturing Software Provider Oqton

Sandvik Invests In Leading AI-Powered Manufacturing Software Provider Oqton

High-tech engineering group Sandvik has acquired a minority stake in the privately owned American company Oqton, a leading provider of AI-powered manufacturing solutions that allow manufacturers to manage, optimise and automate their manufacturing workflows.

Oqton provides a secure end-to-end, cloud-based platform that links data across the manufacturing ecosystem – from design, to production, to logistics – to help users understand, optimise and drive these highly interdependent, but traditionally siloed, processes. This open cloud platform combines order tracking, computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), scheduling, manufacturing execution systems (MES), Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and production traceability into one platform, enabling manufacturers to operate agile factories that manage complex product mixes, with lower inventory and a simplified supply chain.

​​​​​The management team welcomes the transaction, which will provide Oqton with a strong industrial partner that will accelerate opportunities for growth. The financing will be used to further develop Oqton’s platform, while expanding its commercial partnerships in multiple domains and verticals, such as additive manufacturing, robotic welding and CNC machining.

Sandvik’s customers  – regardless of their size  – share similar challenges in manufacturing. Striking the difficult balance between flexibility, effective machine use and minimising waste, all while facing a​ lack of manufacturing insights,​ can restrain productivity.​

Oqton’s solution targets inefficiencies and waste in processes throughout the manufacturing workflow.​ ​It is unique in that it combines several manufacturing software capabilities (CAD, PLM, CAM, IOT, MES, QMS) into a single platform, enabling an unprecedented degree of AI-powered automation and optimisation.

Users can automatically capture expert knowledge and eliminate repetitive tasks, access technologies remotely and across multiple sites, and optimise production planning to improve utilisation and quality. Being fully integrated, users can also link the platform to their traditional technologies, such as CNC, welding, and post-processing machines for a truly end-to-end manufacturing solution, making their processes faster, more adaptable, and more cost-effective.

“This investment is in line with our strategic agenda to broaden our offering in digital manufacturing. We are looking forward to working with Oqton and finding ways to expand our offering for increased customer productivity by creating new products that take advantage of Sandvik’s extensive know-how of manufacturing processes and Oqton’s AI-powered manufacturing solutions”, says Stefan Widing, President and CEO of Sandvik.

“Sandvik will help us scale globally with both a direct and indirect sales approach. We truly think time has come for the manufacturing space to embrace the cloud and we are working hard to facilitate this,” explains Ben Schrauwen, CEO of Oqton.

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High-quality Metal Parts For The Airbus A320 Made With Precise, User-friendly CNC Tech

High-quality Metal Parts for the Airbus A320 Made with Precise, User-friendly CNC Tech

Find out how Harmuth CNC-Frästechnik was able to overcome sheet-metal aircraft part machining challenges. Article by Stefan Ziegler, Beckhoff Automation.

In aircraft construction, exceptional component quality and precision are crucial, for obvious reasons. However, sheet-metal aircraft parts are often extremely large, making machining and handling problematic. 

Working closely with CNC specialist Penta-Tec CNC-Automation GmbH and with milling specialist A&T Manufacturing GmbH—a company that supplies Premium Aerotec, an Airbus subsidiary, with structural components—Harmuth CNC-Frästechnik has built large-format milling machines that use PC-based control technology from Beckhoff to successfully overcome these challenges. 

PC-based Control Provides Greater Flexibility for Machine Builders

Harmuth CNC-Frästechnik makes 3D milling machines and specialty systems, the advantages of which come to the fore in applications such as the fabrication of large sheet-metal parts for the Airbus A320 series of aircraft. The parts are supplied by A&T, as Managing Director Marc Bochinger explains, “Airbus, or rather Premium Aerotec, is our biggest customer. Besides supplying all their material (the sheet aluminium), we also form and machine large and complex structural components for them. What sets us apart at A&T is that we concentrate completely on the customer’s needs and come up with an optimized production and logistics solution in as short a time as possible.”

Power and Versatility of Standard Control Technology

“The big challenge at A&T is the need to constantly implement new machine functionality. A&T and Harmuth CNC-Frästechnik work together closely to optimize the machines—more than once, if necessary—to maximize their potential in production. PC-based control from Beckhoff covers all our requirements, not least because we can change the way axes are coupled in TwinCAT if we need to,” says Roman Felber, Technical Director at Penta-Tec.

In 2010, Penta-Tec found that rising functionality demands were pushing the performance of its proprietary control system to the limits. “We needed a new, flexible control system, capable of delivering the performance we needed. After some research and analysis of the controller market, PC-based control technology from Beckhoff soon stood out as the ideal solution,” Managing Director Dieter König says. 

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