Tag Archives: direct metal laser sintering

Creating a More Sustainable World in 3D

Do you see your world in 3D…Where the dimensions of economy (profit), environment (planet), and society (people) are equally considered in the realization of your manufactured product? Traditional approaches to manufacturing have relied far too heavily on resource intensive processes that don’t always balance the needs of society with the profit goals of the enterprise or the environmental protection that is required for the earth to maintain a healthy and vibrant ecosystem.

Manufacturing enterprises have become substantially more resource efficient and operationally intelligent in the past Century. Compared to the way Additive Manufacturing and 3D printing can enable, there hasn’t been as dramatic an opportunity for industry to realize transformational shifts in resource utilization, since the invention of the steam engine.

Additive manufacturing (AM) takes advantage of various processes used to make three-dimensional objects in which successive layers of materials are laid down under computer control. The objects can be of almost any shape or geometry, and are produced from a 3D model or other electronic data source. AM technologies and processes are now used in a wide-range of industries and to design, engineer, and manufacture higher-performance products. AM technologies and approaches include stereolighography (SLA), selective laser sintering (SLS), and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).

Recent advances in topology optimization can, when blended with AM, provide the means for producing a new generation of engineered parts and products. A few  years ago, AM and 3D printing were widely viewed as prototype-exclusive tools due to their relative high cost, limited material and finishing capabilities.

Definition:
TOPOLOGY:  the way in which consistent parts are interrelated or arranged.

Today, AM and 3D printing tools and equipment can, when integrated with software for topology optimization, revolutionize the way in which products are designed, prototyped, and manufactured. AM and 3D printing provide unparalleled opportunities and freedom to product designers. AM and 3D printing are near a convergence point in assimilating a suite of software, materials, techniques, and finishing options that can springboard this novel technology into the forefront of sustainable product design and manufacturing.

As AM and 3D printing integrate science and technology into superior manufacturing capabilities, the only limiting factor will be our imagination. AM and 3D printing allow for the design, development, and manufacturing of more complex shapes and topographies which result in customized products at faster manufacturing cycle times.

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The flexible design and production freedom of AM can enable sustainable design and manufacture of products. AM offers a new way to achieve competitive advantages in product design and manufacturing by addressing:

  • Design freedom – Due to the wide-ranging potential of AM technologies, design opportunities are limited only by one’s imagination. Traditional manufacturing methods play a large role in the range of options that can be achieved for product designers. In the old world of manufacturing, equipment and machines drove design and product realization based upon the capabilities of the manufacturing equipment. In contrast, the AM world liberates design and provides the means to manufacture parts that would never have been conceivable (at least cost-effectively) with traditional manufacturing methods.
  • Part optimization – AM can, when aligned with the right software, design tools, and material selections, allow designers to achieve optimum part design and performance according to characteristics and requirements that they establish. If a designer wants to optimize their part for materials utilization, production speed, or a variety of other factors related to topology, they can now do so. The latest capabilities of AM and 3D printing provide designers with tools and capabilities that can result in higher performance parts that use less material, energy, and natural resources to develop, manufacture, and use.
  • Materials availability and scarcity – As a manufacturing process, AM only uses the material(s) necessary to realize the part geometry, scale, and size specified by digital design files. Because AM processes grow a shape by depositing layer upon layer of material, this approach is significantly less material intensive than other manufacturing approaches. An example would be the design and development of an injection mold using AM (growing the injection mold with only the right amount of material necessary) versus traditional methods of CNC machining (extracting material from a large block).
  • Process and energy efficiency – When used as an integrated component of a “total manufacturing solution,” AM can be instrumental in reducing total energy consumption per part. For example, the potential of AM can allow for the development of custom injection molds/tools that more efficiently direct water or other forms of cooling to the mold, therefore reducing the time it takes to injection mold and cool a part. This achieves lower total energy for injection molders, and in addition, faster cycle times. AM can be a stand-alone manufacturing process/tool, or strategically included into a total manufacturing solution that helps manufacturers deliver high quality and performance products at every stage of the product life-cycle: design, prototype, tool making, production, and so on.
  • De-materialization of products –AM offers potential to redesign existing or new parts that perform the same or better function, and which use less material. AM parts can be designed to be lighter weight, stronger, and with greater utility than parts manufactured from other processes. As such, AM parts are becoming a preferred solution for the medical device, transportation, aerospace, and defense industries as an opportunity to integrate stronger, lighter, and longer-lasting parts into their products. These industries are attracted by many benefits of AM, however the option to dematerialize a part can have dramatic impact on total product weight, energy use, performance and longevity. For example, in the aerospace industry, companies like GE, Boeing, Airbus, and Lockheed Martin seek to reduce the weight of aircraft to achieve fuel savings, higher performance (faster aircraft), lower weight and more space. The result is a next generation of aircraft that can carry more people and cargo, longer distances, at faster speed, while using less fuel, materials, and resources.
  • Speed-to-market – With AM you can produce a part in hours, not the days or even weeks that may be required with other manufacturing methods. As a result, AM has become the process of choice for many design companies who want quick turn-around on precision prototypes at reasonable cost. In the consumer product sector, the life-cycle of many products is becoming shorter and shorter, in part because of ongoing advances in electronics and technology which make products obsolete in 18-to-24 month business cycles. As a result, many consumer product companies want a more flexible manufacturing opportunity, which balances speed-to-market with shorter-run manufacturing cycles. AM provides this kind of opportunity to cost-effectively bring new products to market quickly, and also enable a manufacturing volume that aligns with the fickleness of the marketplace.

AM delivers the means for designers, manufacturers, and society to visualize, advance, and accelerate the realization of manufactured products across three dimensions (people, planet, and profit). As shown in the visual, the opportunity and scale of sustainability potential and impacts is magnified as AM and 3D printing are used from the onset, and across the product development life-cycle.

 

Do you see your world in 3D

 

Ultimately, the use of AM results in competitive advantages related to operational efficiency (i.e., achieving lower cost of manufactured goods) and development of products that achieve a differentiated and sustainable product performance advantage (i.e., products that are stronger, faster, lighter, use less energy, use less materials, etc.). Finally, the unique capabilities of AM can support a circular economy, one which is restorative, less depletive, and leverages the elegant capabilities of AM to support or enable sustainable design, sustainable manufacturing, sustainable product realization, and product remanufacturing.

Precision Manufacturing at the Speed of Today’s Business World

“If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.” 

-Jack Welch

Model Making and Rapid Prototyping

Jack Welch’s quote is simple, confident, and direct. There are many ways in which businesses can have a competitive advantage. Some have superior product performance, others have unparalleled quality, and many compete on price. But competing on product performance, price, and quality is not enough.

Today speed-to-market is a value that customers have come to expect, and competitive advantage businesses strive to achieve. Businesses earn revenue by bringing value to the market. Those businesses that can bring value quicker than others can gain market share, enhance reputation, and drive greater profits.

Harbec values how critical speed-to-market is for our customers; so much so that we created a proprietary process of supplying our customers with high quality, short-to-medium run plastic parts in any material and design known as Quick Manufacturing Solutions (QMS). Our QMS process helps customers dramatically reduce the time it takes to turn engineering drawings into custom models, prototypes, molds, and injection molded parts. Through QMS Harbec can help your business achieve speed by leveraging our:

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  • People – we have toolmakers that are cross trained to be model and mold makers. We’ve broken down technical and cultu ral barriers to the mold-making profession. Today successful toolmakers excel equally at creating precision prototypes as well as production molds. Our multifaceted team gives us flexibility and internal capacity which results in greater time and attention to detail for our customers, resulting in a better product, and faster. 
  • Processes – as a solution we “manage the queue”, meaning we support our customers project manage life-cycle of a project and product which can yield significant savings in time, money, and human resources. By “managing the queue” in-house at Harbec, customers can take advantage of design for manufacture through production and secondary options with one point of contact. 
  • Tools and Technologies – Harbec has in-house capabilities and equipment including CNC Machining, injection molding, clean room molding, additive manufacturing (Direct Metal Laser Sintering and Selective Laser Sintering) and others. Our investment and mastery in value-added manufacturing technologies allows us, through the QMS process, to identify alternative approaches to save time, money, and resources. Our rapid prototyping solutions allow us to deliver functional prototypes and production parts as quickly as in one day.

Achieving Results in Rapid Prototyping

As an example of our QMS solutions at work check-out our project collaboration with Kappius Components and who sought out our DMLS capabilities using EOS M270 additive manufacturing machine. Harbec’s expertise in model making and rapid prototyping supported by our internal QMS and disciplined approach to “managing the queue” have supported our customers goals for speed-to-market and competitive advantage. “We went from concept to bike-ready components in about a month,”  says Russell Kappius. “I’ve never been able to move that quickly before.” We welcome you to contact us today on how we can be your one-stop source for precision parts with speed, accuracy, and quality.

Fiction and Facts about Direct Metal Laser Sintering

Laser sintering is hot. Better known by the popular name the media has attached to the overall technology, 3D printing, you can’t look at a news roundup these days without running into a slew of articles on the supposedly “new” industrial process.IMG_3187

But the technology actually has been around for quite a while, going back to the 1980s when the first articles on stereolithography and fused deposition modeling began showing up in technical journals. Advances came quickly in the 1990s with the development of new techniques using different substances – such as thermoplastics, ceramics and metal powders – as the fabrication material for creating rapid prototypes with lasers. By the 2000s, enough progress had been made for the technology to graduate beyond mere prototyping and into the production process itself, where it is now referred to as rapid manufacturing (or additive manufacturing). The two most advanced forms of creating products with the technology now are: select laser sintering (SLS), which uses plastics; and   (DMLS), which works with metal powders (see our previous blog entry “Harbec Explains DMLS Technology”). So laser sintering has really come a long way in the last few decades and today is a fairly mature applied science.DMLS_Epcot

Still, there are many misconceptions about DMLS, in particular, that have lingered in the public imagination. To dispel some of these, we offer a brief FAQ on the facts of DMLS.

Q: Some people say that DMLS is only for prototyping and not for real manufacturing. True?

A: DMLS is one of the few additive manufacturing technologies being used in production, especially for limited production (and just-in-time) runs. (Please see the article “Cyclists Take Industrial 3D Printing for a Spin” about one of our clients who used our services to create customized components for his mountain-bike parts.) Obviously, DMLS doesn’t fill the bill for everything. It doesn’t lend itself to all manufacturing as far as cost savings. DMLS excels at highly complex parts that typically would require multiple operations or electric discharge machining; however, simple easily CNC machined parts are usually not cost effective. DMLS has many benefits over traditional manufacturing in general, and chief among these is speed (which leads to reduced costs). DMLS will always turn around parts more quickly.

Q: Is DMLS more expensive than traditional machining or casting?

A: Using a build plate of 250 mm by 250 mm by 325 mm, we can lay out a variety of parts. We can fit numerous parts on this plate, so we can reduce per unit cost in this way.  If you were machining these, you would normally make just one part at a time. But we can put as many parts as possible in that volume on the plate to reduce the set up and process costs. The more parts you can put in per build, the less each part will cost.

Q: Aren’t traditional metal parts stronger than DMLS parts?DMLS3

A: As far as being able to make a series of parts, the metals that we use are 100 percent dense and are able to be machined and welded and can be coated, plated and treated the same as parts machined from a solid billet of material. Plus, they can be hardened. These parts have good mechanical properties, such as strength and durability, that are comparable to cast or forged parts from the same kind of metal.

So there you have the FAQs of the matter, as we see it. For a similar take on the topic, please see the articles “A Short Look at Direct Metal Laser Sintering Technology” and “You’re Wrong: 5 Common Misconceptions about DMLS.” Or contact one of our sales representatives for further information on DMLS manufacturing.

 

Harbec Explains DMLS Technology

In recent years, additive manufacturing has become a mainstream method for producing prototypes and production parts. Harbec has offered DMLS (direct metal laser sintering) and SLS (select laser sintering) services since 2000, providing customers with accurate plastic and metal prototypes.  Additive manufacturing offers many benefits over conventional machined prototypes. The typical lead time for additive prototypes is significantly less than other methods; lead times are measured in days not weeks.Direct Metal Laser Sintering DMLS

DMLS technology is a method of part manufacture that uses metal powder that is sintered using a powerful laser.  The process uses cross sectional layers at a thickness of .0007” to provide the best surface finish possible. The end result is a 100% dense metal part that is accurate within +-.002” per inch with the capability to create features as small as .007”.  The DMLS process provides engineers with part geometry options that were previously unavailable with conventional prototyping methods.  Current DMLS materials available at Harbec are:  stainless steel (17-4), maraging steel (similar to H13), and Ti64 titanium.

The SLS process is similar to the DMLS process using the same cross sectional layer method of sintering with a laser.  The major difference between the SLS and DMLS process is the medium used. SLS uses plastic powders to create durable sintered parts.  Accuracy of the SLS process is +-.01” per inch, and the process is capable of building features as small as .02”.  Current SLS materials available at Harbec: PA2200(nylon polyamide), TPE210(thermo plastic elastomer, available in a variety of durometers), Alumide(aluminum filled nylon polyamide), FR106(V0 flame retardant nylon polyamide), and  PA614-GS(40% glass filled polyamide).

DMLS/SLS comparison to conventional CNC

PROTOTYPE PARTS

DMLS/SLS

Conventional CNC

Complex Part Geometries

Single operation
(less expensive)

Multiple operations
(expensive)

Lead Times

3 – 5 days

1 – 2 weeks

Small Features

No added cost

Added cost

INJECTION MOLD CAVITIES

DMLS

Conventional CNC

Undercuts and Trapped Geometries

Possible

Not Possible

Cooling Lines

Conformal

(more efficient)

Straight only

(less efficient)