Before additive manufacturing, there was subtractive manufacturing, which, like its name suggests, is the process of “subtracting” or cutting away material from a solid amount to create a new object. While it’s the opposite of additive manufacturing, which adds material layer by layer to build an object, one hasn’t replaced the other, and, in fact, they often go hand in hand, as seen by the increasing frequency of 3D printer/CNC mill combination machines (the most well-known, probably, being the ZMorph).
Machine tool company Mitsui Seiki USA has been doing business in subtractive manufacturing for years, but they’ve just announced that they’re breaking into additive territory with a new hybrid machine that combines subtractive and additive technologies. The Vertex 55X-H is a traditional CNC vertical machining center with an included spindle-adapted laser DED (directed energy deposition) nozzle that can either 3D print new parts or add on to existing parts.
Unlike many of the hybrid machines we’ve covered, the Vertex 55X-H is primarily a CNC machine, rather than a 3D printer with CNC components. The powder nozzle is loaded into the machine’s tool changer and swapped in and out with CNC mills and drills according to automated CNC program prompts, so that parts can be machined using both additive and subtractive methods in the same process.
“The process is under full adaptive control as we are making the part, ensuring that as we’re moving back and forth between additive and subtractive, we are maintaining the intended surface or feature as it’s being produced,” said Robb Hudson, Technology & Business Development Manager.
“In addition to developing the integrated spindle-adapted fiber laser and powder-feed system, this is the main benefit that Mitsui Seiki offers as compared to other hybrid systems on the market: our machine maintains common center line integrity between nozzle and tool as users go back and forth between the additive nozzle and the subtractive tool and offers a sub-15 micron volumetric accuracy within the work envelope.”
Customers can select either a CAT or HSK spindle with 15,000 to 30,000 rpm, and the machine can be used for either wet or dry machining thanks to an integrated coolant system. The Vertex 55X-H’s working range is from 550 to 750 mm in X-axis; 600 to 800 mm in Y-axis; and 400 to 750 mm in Z-axis. Benefits of the hybrid technology, which Mitsui Seiki intends to eventually implement in all of their machines, include:
- Efficient, reliable and repeatable production
- Reduction of long cycle time typically involved in powder bed additive manufacturing
- Waste reduction
- Single platform with one setup for two processes
- Adaptive programming language that allows for seamless transition between additive and subtractive manufacturing
- Machining of IDs and ODs on workpiece
- Ability to add multiple nozzles for different powder flow rates and differently angled heads
- Full control of powder flow deposition rate using a variety of laser beam profiles
Ideal applications for the hybrid technology include repair of airfoil parts like high-pressure turbine and compressor blades along with various components for the aerospace, power, and oil and gas industries. It’s also likely to save manufacturers a lot of money with its repair and part recovery capabilities.
“Over time we will likely see hundreds of additional application opportunities in multiple industries,” said Hudson. “In the very near future we will be able to add nozzles for localized heat treatment, cleaning the workpiece surface, drying the part of coolant residue, and even laser drilling and cutting. The possibilities are virtually endless.”
Mitsui Seiki plans to demonstrate the Vertex 55X-H at the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), which will be held in Chicago from September 12-17. Robb Hudson, Mitsui Seiki’s Co-Director Product Development – Additive/Subtractive Technology, will be speaking at IMTS to educate visitors. Discuss further over in the Vertex 55X-H CNC & 3D Printing Machine forum at 3DPB.com.[Source: Tooling & Production]