Mitsubishi Electric Company announced this week that it has developed a new technology – a dot forming technology that combines laser, CNC and CAM technologies in a 3D printer. This technology realizes high-precision shaping and produces high quality 3D parts with few voids at high speed. It uses a laser wire directed energy deposition (DED) method, a 3D printing process that uses focused thermal energy to fuse parts as they are deposited. Mitsubishi Electric Company believes that the new technology will improve productivity in a wide range of applications, including the near-net shaping of aircraft and automotive parts and build-up repairs.
A wide variety of 3D shapes are possible with the technology, including overhangs or hollow shapes. It can be used not only to create new parts from scratch but to repair objects made with other technologies, adding on layers to pre-existing parts. Directed energy deposition can use powder as a feedstock, but it commonly uses metal wire, which can be inexpensive, common laser welding wire. The process is similar to material extrusion, but the nozzle is not fixed to a specific axis and can move in multiple directions.
The new technique repeats spot forming by synchronously controlling the pulsed laser irradiation, the supply of metal wires and shield gas, and the shaping position. The shape accuracy is 60 percent more precise than conventional consecutive forming technology. Oxidation can be a problem with more conventional technology, but it can be reduced by more than 20 percent with the new technique because the high temperature areas are limited to a narrow spot forming area. Complex shapes can be formed by using special CAM processes compatible with dot forming technology.
Precision is one of the major advantages of Mitsubishi Electric’s new technology, as is the ability to produce parts with very few voids. The company, through its Research Laboratories, has come up with some experimental and promising 3D printing technologies before, such as five-axis 3D printing, and its dot forming technology is promising indeed. Voids in 3D printed parts are a major issue in most metal additive manufacturing technologies, and eliminating them will save valuable time, money and material. The ability to produce parts to near net shape is also extremely valuable, as it cuts back on post processing time and effort.
The public will have the opportunity to learn more about Mitsubishi Electric Company’s dot forming technology next month at the Japan International Machine Tool Fair (JIMTOF2018), which will be taking place in Tokyo from November 1st to November 6th. A machine exhibiting the new technology will be on display at the convention. It will be a few years still before we see the technology available commercially; Mitsubishi Electric plans to launch a commercial version of the machine within the fiscal year ending in March 2021.
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