Jan 29

Additive Manufacturing

The definition of Disruptive technology is an innovation that significantly alters the way that consumers, industries, or businesses operate. A disruptive technology sweeps away the systems or habits it replaces because it has recognisably superior attributes.

In the year 1818, Eli Whitney invented the milling machine to reduce the hand filing of intricate shapes; this was part of the beginning of motorised subtractive manufacturing. A process by which 3D objects are constructed by successively cutting material away from a solid block of material. Additive manufacturing works the opposite way, by building the 3D object from the base up.

Additive manufacturing, in our case, utilises Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). This is an entirely different process to 3D printing used to make plastic models.

SLS is an Additive Manufacturing (AM) technique that uses a laser as the power source to sinter powdered material. The CNC Control aims the laser at a point in space defined by a CAD model, binding the material together to create a solid structure.

The process begins by the machine setting an even layer of the desired metal dust on a build platform, and then a high powered laser melts the metal in the exact area dictated by the model. The next layer is set, and the process repeats. Parts produced can achieve a density of over 99%, comparing favorably with traditional subtractive manufacturing methods.

The metal dust used can be Titanium, Cobalt Chrome, Aluminum, Inconel or Stainless Steel, to name a few.

AM is ideal for making prototypes or single parts quickly and has the advantage of being able to produce designs that would be too difficult to produce with traditional subtractive manufacturing methods.

It essentially it opens up a whole new world of design possibilities. Products that previously could only be achieved by welding or joining multiple parts together can now be made in one piece. Being one-piece eliminates weak spots and can produce components more aesthetically pleasing.

Conventional manufacturing always had limitations that were restraining new designs and ideas. Design engineers are now free of their old constraints.

Watch this space.

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