Five-Axis Machining Complements AM
What machining capability is the right complement to additive manufacturing? For Star Prototype, the answer is a UMC-750 five-axis vertical machining center from Haas Automation (seen here when it was newly purchased this summer) programmed using Delcam’s PowerMill software.
The British-owned company based in Guandong Province, China, combines metal 3D printing and five-axis machining to quickly deliver complex, low-volume components that might previously have required the work of two separate suppliers. It calls this service AddSub Manufacturing.
“Many metal 3D printed parts are no longer used as prototypes but as complex low-volume manufactured components,” says Gordon Styles, president of Star Prototype. “As a result, many of these parts need certain high-precision features that are virtually impossible to produce with 3D printing alone.”
The company uses a Renishaw AM250 direct metal laser melting machine to produce dense, complex metal parts in titanium, stainless steel and aluminum. The challenge of machining those parts is not the amount of stock to remove, because the parts are so near to net shape. The machining challenge instead comes from the geometric complexity that additive permits, which led to the recent purchase of the five-axis machine. (Indeed, the connection between complex machining and additive manufacturing is a point Delcam recently highlighted in a test case with additive production.)
Star uses five-axis machining to add features to additive parts such as mating faces, precision bores and tapped holes. Whenever possible, the company says, parts are built on the AM250 in a useful orientation for machining, with supports designed so that the build plate can be transferred directly to the five-axis machine.
If you are a medical professional in the U.S., you've likely heard that 3D printing can be an answer to equipment shortages. Here's how to find local 3D printing specialists and how to talk to them once you have.
3D printing and robots enable one another. We miss the possibilities of one if we do not consider the other. The combination includes AM for end effectors, robots for 3D printing parts, and different modes of metal and plastic production.
Spirit AeroSystems recently began installing the Boeing 787’s first titanium structural component to be made through AM. The part is not critical but also not minor. I spoke with manufacturing leaders at Spirit about the meaning of the part and the way forward for additive in aircraft structures.