Okuma is known for being a manufacturer of CNC machines, but the company is now branching out into additive manufacturing – or rather hybrid manufacturing. Hybrid manufacturing combines one or more manufacturing techniques, often additive and subtractive manufacturing, into one process or, in some cases, one machine. For some types of parts, it is one of the most effective manufacturing methods, as the benefits of multiple technologies are combined to create a more efficient, more effective process.
Okuma has just introduced the MU-8000V Laser EX multitasking CNC machine, which combines subtractive manufacturing with laser additive manufacturing technology. The machine uses Laser Metal Deposition (LMD), a technique which can not only 3D print entirely new items but can also add onto existing items for repair or cladding. It can also print with multiple materials in one build. Combining LMD with CNC machining allows for parts to be cut into different shapes and sizes, added on to, and trimmed again.
The MU-8000V Laser EX allows for parts to be inspected and repaired during production, and efficiency and resolution are increased thanks to an infinitely variable control of laser spot diameters (Ø0.4 to 8.5 mm). By using LMD instead of Laser Metal Fusion, the MU-8000V Laser EX offers mid-process part inspection and material exchange, coolant use in the work envelope, and an overall faster process, according to Okuma.
Okuma plans to introduce additional Laser EX machines in the future. Features will include laser hardening, which is designed to work on carbon steel material and involves heating by laser emission and hardening by self-cooling. Case hardening is also possible, and this technique involves less warpage than with high frequency or flame hardening. Another feature will be process-intensive turn hardening and grinding, in which cutting and grinding is completed on a single CNC machine with no setup change. It allows for uniform-width turn hardening using a high-output, stable laser and case hardening on a cylindrical surface with no uneven hardening and little warping. Finally, the company will offer resin mold repairs, from crack removal to finishing, on a single machine. This feature will accommodate hard-to-cut and high-hardness materials.
Many other CNC companies have begun to bring additive manufacturing into their businesses and this will lead to the expansion of 3D printing as a technology. Perhaps increased competitiveness will lead to better machines as well? Okuma is the latest to acknowledge the effectiveness of combining CNC and 3D Printing, and the MU-8000V Laser EX may just be the beginning of the company’s venture into 3D printing.
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