Accelerating Industrial Adoption of Metal Additive Manufacturing Technology
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While metal additive manufacturing (AM) technology has clear benefits, there are still factors preventing its adoption by industry. These factors include the high cost of metal AM systems, the difficulty for machinists to learn and operate metal AM machines, the long approval process for part qualification/certification, and the need for better process controls; however, the high AM system cost is the main barrier deterring adoption. In this paper, we will discuss an America Makes-funded program to reduce AM system cost by combining metal AM technology with conventional computerized numerical controlled (CNC) machine tools. Information will be provided on how an Optomec-led team retrofitted a legacy CNC vertical mill with laser engineered net shaping (LENS®—LENS is a registered trademark of Sandia National Labs) AM technology, dramatically lowering deployment cost. The upgraded system, dubbed LENS Hybrid Vertical Mill, enables metal additive and subtractive operations to be performed on the same machine tool and even on the same part. Information on the LENS Hybrid system architecture, learnings from initial system deployment and continuing development work will also be provided to help guide further development activities within the materials community.
Funding for this project was received from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy through a cooperative agreement with the Air Force Research Laboratory (FA8650-12-2-7230).
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