The April 2018 edition of Manufacturing Engineering is available as a digital magazine. Links to individual articles are below:
Additive manufacturing (AM), commonly known as 3D printing, is a vibrant and dynamic field. Each year, developments in AM allow organizations to create products that were previously unthinkable. Those possibilities are being developed today, as new applications spur strong demand for AM. The fast growth in metal AM that began in 2013 continues apace. Annual growth in machine unit sales averaged 49% for the years 2013 through 2016, according to our research for the Wohlers Report.
The next “dynamic duo” may not involve humans at all. Vision and robotics have gone hand in hand for years. But unlike other marriages, this one is thriving as machine vision is expanding in capability and finding new applications. The “perfect” marriage of the past involved guiding the robot. But new applications—like children from a good marriage—now include inspecting parts, reading bar or QR codes for traceability, and finding new ways to pack and unpack parts.
A key success factor for Industry 4.0 and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) initiatives is the emergence of more and better sensors in machining centers, and even in the cutting tools themselves. These sensors provide the data and connectivity that are the foundation for the “factory of the future.” But, far from being futuristic, there are a range of “smart sensors” available today—collecting data and showing operators the health of their machines and the metalcutting process.
New releases add cloud versions, simulation, augmented reality/virtual reality, and additive offerings, while looking to manufacturing’s IIoT future. Complexity is pervasive in today’s component design and manufacturing processes. In the latest product lifecycle management (PLM) software, manufacturers get more choices, with new functionality being added to help visualize manufacturing processes with technologies that include augmented reality (VR) and virtual reality (VR).
There will be a lot of success stories coming out soon featuring hybrid additive/subtractive machine technology. Still in its early development stages, hybrid machine technology is carving out—after carefully building up layer by layer—examples of complex parts, large repaired workpieces, and molds with process-enhancing conformal cooling channels designed in. Hybrid is showing that there’s more than one way to reduce cycle times and boost the bottom line as long as the total cost of manufacturing processes is considered.
Deep in the heart of Texas (Weatherford to be exact), Frankenstein Engine Dynamics (FED) manufactures some of the best custom engine parts used in the professional auto racing industry. From the time FED opened its doors in 2005, the company’s products have met the racer’s need for speed. By 2015, FED cylinder heads, intake manifolds, and engine kits were in such high demand that the company desperately needed to rev up operations and expand, or lose out on a great growth opportunity.
The 3D printing landscape has changed dramatically since the 1988 commercialization of stereolithography (SL). There have been substantial advances in software and materials that sync with increasing computer power and growth in the 3D CAD installed base. There has been a surge of new technologies and market entrants. Both new and established users of 3D printing are faced with a formidable task of choosing whether to place investment dollars in the promises of emerging technology or continued expansion in proven technologies.
Cleaning and surface processing are important production stages in many manufacturing industries. For automotive applications, machined parts and subassemblies must be thoroughly cleaned before they move into subsequent stages of assembly or coating. Major automotive manufacturers avoid costly downtime by using industrial robotic washers from Ecoclean Inc. equipped with Sirius 3RR monitoring relays from Siemens Industry Inc.
In this month’s issue of Manufacturing Engineering, emerging technologies, such as vision systems and robotics, are showcased. Plus, additive manufacturing (AM) takes center stage as one of those technologies, but that’s a bit misleading. It’s done emerging and is full-fledged manufacturing technology. Also, multiple industries are rethinking product design and manufacturing as AM takes hold, and annual growth in machine unit sales averaged 49% for the years 2013 through 2016, according to the Wohlers Report.
ADVANCED MANUFACTURING NOW
Advanced software bots, under the umbrella category of “generative design,” are replacing engineering functions, proposing designs for brackets, airplane wings, and vehicle chassis. Should we be worried? Will these self-driving machines (and engineering software) replace those of us who make our living in the industrial and manufacturing workforce?
In the near absence of academic programs to teach undergraduate engineering students additive manufacturing, a California-based startup has stepped in to help fill the void through internships. Morf3D, suppliers of metal parts-based aerospace hardware, has trained close to 20 engineering students from nearby universities since the business started in 2014.
In the early days at CNC Software, Mastercam CAD/CAM system was only part of a larger manufacturing solution and that an open architecture foundation could allow seamless data communication with complementary devices and systems across the shop floor. Open architecture, along with partnerships with vertical solution providers, is fostering more cost-effective digital solutions that small shops are starting to adopt.
Not long ago the total 3D printing industry revenue was about a $1.0B dollars, and now many financial institutions five-year revenue forecasts predict the overall industry revenue to be over $30.0B dollars. The Wohlers Report is another indicator that estimated the CY2016 market growth to be at 17.4%. So, what are the key factors driving the growth?
If you’re not fully convinced of the additive wave that’s sweeping manufacturing, a brief conversation with Penn State University Professor Timothy W. Simpson will quickly change your mind. Plus, additive’s recent surge has been spurred on by GE’s acquisition of Morris Technologies, the launch of America Makes and the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) institutes.
A look at 3DXpert for Solidworks, a complementary software solution providing professional users, designers and engineers with a complete toolset to prepare and optimize their designs for additive manufacturing. The driver for introducing the product was to democratize the use of AM technologies to the Solidworks professional users, making design for AM more accessible.
Smart manufacturing is about making the best decisions in the shortest time possible based on the most accurate real-time data—whether those decisions are made by people, machines or cyber-physical systems. This is the foundation for being flexible, effective, responsive, and competitive. A smart manufacturing initiative does not need to be a huge project. It may be better to start small, but with the right approach and priorities.
Manufacturing supports an estimated 17.6 million jobs in the US, or about one in six private-sector jobs. More than 12 million Americans (or 9% of the workforce) are employed directly in manufacturing. But there is a challenge that I’ve seen, that industry sees, and that educators see: attracting bright young minds to explore and learn STEM skills through technical coursework.
The next cycle of technology disruption is upon us. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is taking hold in every industry and manufacturing is no exception. AI enables companies—from medical device and electronics manufacturers to pharmaceutical firms—to leverage their Big Data and IoT investments to see new patterns and insights and to perform tasks more efficiently and quickly than ever before
Laser Special Section
Several fiber laser-cutting machine builders are focusing on making their products more flexible and economical while at the same time including features usually found on higher end machines—all with the needs of contract metal fabricators in mind. But while economy is measured in dollars and cents, flexibility is harder to pin down. Some manufacturers of laser-cutting machines want their products to be more flexible and economical for contract metal fabricators.
From producing lithium-ion batteries to processing sheetmetal, new laser welding systems are “pushing the envelope” of light absorption, beam control, speed and programming flexibility. With electric vehicles in increasing demand, the blue laser is coming to the fore in performing vital welding operations with copper and aluminum that infrared (IR) fiber lasers cannot handle. These batteries, as well as advanced consumer electronics, also require the joining of dissimilar metals with novel processes.
For ABB, robotic welding comes down to a never-ending process of ensuring parts are suitable for laser joining and developing the appropriate processes. To that end, ABB is refining a recent innovation to improve beam delivery speeds and has developed software for on-the-fly welding in tandem with Trumpf’s Intelligent Programmable Focusing Optic (IPFO).
While laser marking and engraving are well-established processes, innovations and investments in the sector are continuing to push performance boundaries. With more industries bringing laser marking in-house, faster systems with higher wattage and bigger bed sizes are in high demand. Key components in laser marking advances are proprietary software and connectivity that are offering previously unavailable marking options or far smoother integration into production processes—particularly on-the-fly applications.
With solid-state technology, laser systems are able to produce continuous high-output power, increased speed, and more precise beam quality. Chiller manufacturers must meet the demand for higher uptime, precise temperature control, higher energy efficiency, and a smaller footprint. Laser manufacturers are also adding refrigeration systems directly into the laser system.