In the last installment in this series, we looked at some of the bigger players in the hybrid manufacturing space. Here, we look at some smaller companies, as well as some technologies that don’t quite fit alongside those from the previous post.
Japanese machine manufacturer Mistui Seiki announced the Vertex 55X-H in 2016. The Vertex 55X-H features an LMD head built into a vertical mill. The system uses an automated tool changer to swap the DED head for CNC tools to perform additive and subtractive functions. Mitsui Seiki is not necessarily a small company, but the hybrid system is no longer listed on their website.
After the successful launch of its comparatively inexpensive, compact metal PBF 3D printer, O.R. Lasertechnologie (OR Laser) developed a hybrid version of its Creator system. The machine features a 250W laser which moves around the build platform, which accounts for a 30 percent increase in speed. Milling is performed every five to 10 layers. In 2018, OR Laser was acquired by publicly traded U.S. laser systems manufacturer Coherent, giving the smaller firm a potentially broader reach. Due to the size of the Creator, it is suited for jewelry, dental and other more petite applications.
CNC manufacturer Elb-Schliff Werkzeugmaschinen sells a hybrid manufacturing system that relies on a DED head supplied by HMT. It integrates this tool head within a milling and grinding system. The major highlight of the millGrind machine is the use of industrial grinding to polish parts, in addition to milling.
Created in conjunction with the University of the Basque Country and TECNALIA technological center, Ibarmia’s ADD+PROCESS technology integrates a 3kW LMD head into 5-axis milling and turning machines. According to the company, the process is capable of making parts up to 1.6m long.
3D Hybrid Solutions
Like Hybrid Manufacturing Solutions (HMS) discussed in the last part of our series, 3D Hybrid Solutions has created a system that makes it possible to convert any CNC machine into a hybrid 3D printer. Beyond HMS’s existing technology, 3D Hybrid Solutions has not limited its metal deposition heads to just DED but includes wire-arc welding and cold spray as well. Cold spray sends metal powders at speeds of 1600-3500 ft/s onto the substrate. The printhead systems begin at about $50,000, which is much less expensive than most other machines listed in this series.
In 2017, the company worked with CNC maker Multiax International to develop a metal 3D printer with a build area of 500 cubic meters and capable of printing speeds of 20 pounds per hour. The partners claimed that it was the largest metal 3D printer in the world.
Other Forms of Hybrid 3D Printing
Fabrisonic has developed a technology called ultrasonic additive manufacturing (UAM) that applies high-frequency ultrasonic vibrations to layers of metal foil, welding them together. With this UAM head affixed to a three-axis CNC mill, a metal part can be printed before a CNC milling head can cut away excess material from the foil layers and achieve the final desired shape. Because it does not use heat to weld the metal foil, UAM allows for the embedding of sensors and other electronics to create functional parts for aerospace and weapons applications.
There is also the LASIMM project, which recently concluded, that resulted in the development of a modular robotic system for performing wire arc + additive manufacturing and milling. The LASIMM system was able to produce aluminum, steel and titanium parts up to five meters long and three meters wide. Additionally, the recently completed OpenHybrid project resulted in two hybrid systems being developed: one which integrates DED into an existing CNC machine and one gantry system built from the ground up. Another European research endeavor developed the 20m x 8m x 6m Kraken 3D printer, also using WAAM technology. The Kraken also uses a bi-material resin system to deposit polymer at rates of 120 kg/h.
In our most recent installment discussing carbon fiber 3D printing, we discussed a number of large-scale polymer extrusion systems, including two that have integrated CNC milling into the machine architecture. Ingersoll and Thermwood, both manufacturing equipment makers, have developed massive 3D printers that deposit plastic at rapid rates. Built-in milling heads then shave the printed objects to their final tolerances.
Diabase has developed a $6,900 hybrid 3D printer called the H Series which performs polymer extrusion as well as CNC milling. The machine features automated tool changing and can use up to five different tool heads.
Though not automated, Zmorph has designed a printer with swappable toolheads that include CNC milling, laser etching and paste extrusion. XYZprinting, a subsidiary of contract manufacturing giant New Kinpo Group, offers desktop 3D printers that combine laser engraving, 2D printing and polymer extrusion.
Made In Space, responsible for installing the first 3D printers in the International Space Station, is working on a hybrid 3D printing machine for operation in microgravity. The Vulcan system is meant to print both polymers and metals and perform milling functions.
In the next installment of this series, we will discuss the applications of hybrid manufacturing, which ranges from tool making to end part production.
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