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Metal Fabrication is Heating Up

May 27, 2007

Filed under: additive manufacturing,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 10:32

Making parts additively from powder metal is taking off. Morris Technologies of Cincinnati, Ohio is now running six EOSINT M machines from EOS of Germany. The machines produce solid metal parts by melting powder with a laser, layer by layer. To date, the company has produced an estimated 8,000 parts. More than 95% of them are used in prototypes and final products, while less than 5% are used as inserts for tooling. Morris is running DirectMetal 20 (a proprietary bronze-based metal), 17-4 stainless steel, and cobalt-chrome.

Arcam and its customers are also making good progress. Arcam’s Electron Beam Melting (EBM) produces parts in titanium alloy and cobalt-chrome using an electron beam instead of a laser to melt layers of powder. The company sold 15 EBM systems last year, compared to six the year before. Magnus Rene, CEO of Sweden-based Arcam, said that its customers are using the process extensively for part manufacturing. About 30% of the parts are used for custom and short run production, while 50% are used for mainstream manufacturing.

In the future, expect to see a growing number of metal parts from additive fabrication, especially ones that are relatively small and complex in shape. Most will be parts that would normally be produced by casting or CNC machining, or ones that would be impossible to build any other way.

We Need More Invention

May 12, 2007

Filed under: additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education,event,future — Terry Wohlers @ 06:54

“It’s been said that inventiveness is the source of American wealth,” explained Leland Teschler in his March 8, 2007 column in Machine Design magazine. He went on to say that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) concluded that we need more of it.

Ideas have been explored and tried in an effort to “produce” inventors. Teschler believes—and I agree—that some people are born with more natural ability to invent than others. You simply can’t create good inventors.

It is possible, however, to bring out the best in people that have what it takes to invent. History has shown that high-profile prizes can encourage innovation, according to Teschler. He uses the example of Lindbergh’s flight from New York to Paris. It was the $25,000 Orteig Prize that served as the motivation. More recently, Mojave Aerospace Ventures received the $10 million X Prize for launching a private pilot into space.

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and a group of volunteers are working together to introduce high school students to the tools and technologies that help you explore new ideas, create, and innovate. The fourth annual Bright Minds Mentor Program, held last week, introduced advances in CAD solid modeling, 3D printing, rapid manufacturing, and laser scanning to 50 Detroit-area students at the RAPID 2007 Conference & Exposition. The program has never offered prizes as an incentive to participate, but it supports NAS, NAE, and NSF’s belief that creating interest in invention starts at the elementary and secondary school levels.

NAS, NAE, and NSF also believe that more scholarships for science and math majors are needed. The Dimension 3D Printing Group, a business unit of Stratasys, recently announced the results of its third annual “Extreme Redesign: The Ultimate 3D Printing Challenge,” a design and 3D printing contest for high school and college students. More than 1,200 designs were entered in the competition. Two first place winners received $2,500 scholarships and four finalists received $1,000 scholarships.

Inventors cannot be created, but there are ways to motivate the naturally gifted to become productive inventors. I truly believe that programs, such as Bright Minds and Extreme Design, are helping. Kudos to SME and Stratasys for serving as the spark that hopefully ignites many fuses among our youth.