Much has been written and discussed about 3D printing, aka additive manufacturing, lately. One thing I never thought of with my mechanical “engineering” days behind me long ago was the thought of tolerances. I just never asked anyone about the tolerances you can hold with an additive production process.
I wrote something about the topic recently that drew the attention of a PR firm, and soon I was talking with Ola Harrysson and Rick Wysk of the North Carolina State University Center for Additive Manufacturing and Logistics. Our conversation centered on the progression from design for additive manufacturing to processes to material development to finished machining to logistics. They are obviously taking a holistic view of the system.
Dr. Harrysson is professor and Fitts Fellow in Biomedical Manufacturing at NC State. Dr. Harrysson is in charge of the Additive Manufacturing Laboratory (AML) in the ISE department which houses the first Electron Beam Melting (EBM) machine in the world. AML is currently involved in both aerospace and medical related research as well as providing faculty and students with prototyping services.
Dr. Wysk is Dopaco Distinguished Professor at the university, whose research and teaching interests are in the general area of Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) and medical device design and manufacturing. In particular, he is interested in: 1) lean manufacturing (waste elimination and setup reduction), 2) product/process engineering, 3) Computer-Aided Manufacturing, 4) Flexible Manufacturing Systems (FMSs) planning, design and control, and most recently 5) the engineering and manufacturing of medical products, including regenerative medical products.
They told me the center is working on an automatic finishing system—software that works between the additive (3D printing) and subtractive (machining) processes.
Rick said, “Ola saw the potential and got funding for the first electron beam layering machine. He went on to develop one of the first titanium processing processes using the electron beam technology.”
Interestingly, they told me although geometric limitations of this process are almost nonexistent relative to casting or machining, the accuracy of building with an e-beam is about that of casting. Says Ola, “So I came with idea of knitting together processes. We then create holding components and put in a CNC machine.”
The Center is currently working with a company building parts for the aerospace industry. Parts can be built within 24 hours, but then it may be days to weeks to do the machining. The idea is to reduce that. Rick—”Imagine putting a system in a submarine where they could build replacement parts on the spot. John Deere is interested for custom building spare parts and reducing the need for costly warehouses full of spare parts that may never be used.”
The Center has funding from National Science Foundation and America Makes. They should show capabilities of software within a year.