It’s been less than a month since Optomec announced that their patented Aerosol Jet Technology is now capable of 3D printing embedded electronics at the micron scale. They’ve always been a company that seems to stay one step ahead of the rest of the 3D printing industry, and this week at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), Optomec announced the latest addition to their other major product line. The company is known just as much for their LENS 3D printing technology as they are for their Aerosol Jet system, and they haven’t been neglecting either of them lately.
One of the many aspects of LENS technology that sets it apart from other metal additive manufacturing methods is its capability for integration with CNC machining systems, thanks to the modular LENS Print Engine. The newly launched LENS Machine Tool Series goes a step further, bringing CNC machining and 3D printing together into a series of hybrid machines that offer high performance for low cost.
“Optomec’s Machine Tool series leverages LENS industry-proven technology to provide high-performance metal additive and hybrid manufacturing capabilities at an incredible price point, making additive manufacturing a viable solution for the machine tooling industry,” said David Ramahi, President and CEO of Optomec. “This new product line complements our existing LENS systems and fills specific gaps for low cost additive only and hybrid CNC inert systems. We are working with machine tool vendors to make production-grade metal additive manufacturing more affordable and accessible.”
The Machine Tool Series combines LENS technology with CNC platforms from machine tool company Fryer Machine Systems, which will be marketing the CNC/LENS combination in the form of their new LaserFab 3D hybrid machines. LaserFab machines feature a high-powered fiber laser and a high performance VNC for high-speed machining. According to Fryer, LaserFab machines are capable of printing and finishing machine parts to a 4-micron tolerance – plus, they’re less than half the cost of other hybrid metalworking machines, starting at under $350,000.
“Since our inception, we have based our business on the core principles of delivering quality products that are fairly priced and surrounding those products with exceptional service to our customers” said Larry Fryer, Founder and President of Fryer Machine Systems. “We are applying these same principles in partnership with Optomec to introduce hybrid CNC systems at new price thresholds that will accelerate industrial adoption of this technology.”
Fryer’s LaserFab machines will benefit from Optomec’s proprietary SteadyFlow powder feeders, as well as interchangeable nozzles, fiber laser, PartPrep and 5-Axis tool path generation software, plus SmartAM closed loop process controls. Fryer will be demonstrating the new system in Booth #S8719 at IMTS.
Optomec, meanwhile, will be showcasing their Machine Tool Series in Booth #N73. It includes three standard configurations: the LENS 3D Metal Additive System, which enables low-cost open air processing; the LENS 3D Metal Hybrid VMC System, which combines additive and subtractive manufacturing processes on the same machine; and the LENS 3D Metal Hybrid VMC Inert System. The first of its kind in the metalworking industry, the Inert System offers an atmosphere-controlled environment that enables the manufacturing of reactive metals and aluminum. By replacing the upper enclosure of the CNC machine with Optomec’s hermetically sealed chamber and gas purification system, the VMC Inert System can maintain oxygen and moisture levels of less than 40 ppm.
Pricing for the Machine Tool Series starts at $249,500 for the LENS 3D Metal Additive System. Shipments of the series will begin in the first quarter of 2017. According to Optomec, the technology has already been getting good reviews. The Center for Remanufacturing and Resources Recovery (C3R) at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) has been using the LENS 3D Hybrid Vertical Milling Center to restore legacy metal parts that couldn’t be repaired with other methods. The combination of LENS with CNC machining allows for the removal of damaged material, the preparation of the part surface, and the restoration of the structure and function of the part all within one machine. C3R is currently investigating the possibility of using the system to restore cast iron and steel parts for another life cycle.
Optomec will be showing a video about C3R’s use of the LENS system at IMTS, as well as sample parts and live demonstrations. Demonstrations will involve not just the Machine Tool Series but another hybrid machine using LENS technology: a 4-axis vertical mill created in collaboration with Mexican CNC machine tool builder Industrias Viwa (which will be the first Mexican machine tool company to participate at IMTS) and CNC controller manufacturer Centroid. IMTS will be running until September 17. Discuss further over in the Optomec and LENS 3D Print Engine forum at 3DPB.com.