I had the opportunity to attend the RAPID conference sponsored by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers in Detroit the week of June 9. This conference focuses on 3D scanning and additive manufacturing (3D printing). Workshop classes, panels and even certification in 3D printing from the SME were all part of the event. For Fusion 360 users the exposition floor was a sea of potential new methods for prototyping as well as custom fabrication. As you may have read in another blog posting output for 3D printing is an area where Fusion will continue to expand our capabilities.
The exhibit floor had representatives from many printer manufacturers but there were also many service bureaus showing their capabilities. The cost of 3D printers continues to drop but there are some printing capabilities that simply don't justify the purchase of the machinery. These service bureaus will provide expertise and technology on an as needed basis. Some are available online such as Shapeways, iMaterialize and Sculpteo. Here is a listing of those vendors from the RAPID show which you may want to consider for projects where special expertise or equipment is required. For instance I was struck by the number of vendors who provided metal printing. The process to create these type of prints utilize a powdered metal which is sintered or melted in layers to create the parts.
Photo: Oak Ridge National Laboratories
Operating on the show floor was a machine from Matsuura Machinery that combined both laser metal sintering with a machining head. The results were outstanding. Although not the kind of machine you are going to put in the basement this combination of technologies has the potential to streamline the production of injection molded parts. The process provides an extremely high quality surface finish but it also allows cooling channels to be created within the mold at the same time. It even can change the density of the metal material allowing gas to be injected into the mold which improves the quality of the part. This combination of additive and subtractive capabilities is a trend we will see more of.
Photo: Maatsura Machinery
Microfabrica - micro scale printing
I was drawn into the Microfabrica booth because of the microscope on display. The microscope was actually needed to see the results of their printing process that produces parts at the sub millimeter scale. This process is capable of not only printing small parts but also working movements such as the escapement of a watch. Microfabrica provides the service of printing these parts as prototypes and in production runs. All you need is the CAD part.
BAAM - Big Area Additive Manufacturing
Oak Ridge National Laboratories is a manufacturing research facility that advances the capabilities of additive manufacturing among other areas. They have partnered with Cincinatti Inc. to develop a large scale 3D printing capability. How large? How about the size of a car? The process is capable of printing entire body components such as those needed to address the 3D Printed Car Challenge presented by Local Motors. Examples on the show floor included furniture created from the process. The process will utilize a gantry system with a polymer extruder and machining head.
Photo: Oak Ridge National Laboratories
Makerbot displayed their newest offering the Replicator Z18. The Z18 provides a solution for professsional quality printing that adds many capabilities to their current consumer printers. The volume is a substantial 2,592 cubic inches with a hieght of over 18 inches. The build area is heated which will improve print quality. Files can be sent to the Z18 via WiFi and Ethernet. The printing process can also be monitored through an onboard camera. There is also a filiment monitor that will pause the print process and notify you through a mobile app.
3D printing capabilities continue to expand creating opportunities for energy savings, faster prototyping and mass customization. Fusion 360 can link you to all of these new manufacturing processes. You can learn more about the RAPID 2015 conference next year in Long Beach, California.