Mold Builder Shares Impressions of 3D Printing at IMTS 2018
International Mold Corp. attended IMTS 2018 specifically to learn about new advancements in additive manufacturing and 3D printing that the company could incorporate into its day-to-day moldmaking operations.
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I’ve had my eye on the Matsuura Lumex sintering and machining line for a while now, and after IMTS it is on my equipment wish list. The Lumex machine has the potential to virtually eliminate the need for EDM, create self-venting steels and produce conformal cooling lines, reducing cycle times. They are amazing machines. The team also checked out the Sodick OPM 250L metal 3D printer, which is another hybrid machine that can print and cut at micro layers. Mazak and DMG Mori also displayed their hybrid machines.
Another take on this hybrid approach to 3D printing is a metal print head that fits onto the existing tool changer of a CNC machining center. This option caught our attention because it does not require extra floor space for a new machine. You simply adapt your current machine for metal printing. Although we need to conduct further research to understand the required programming and software fully, we are considering this a viable option.
A noticeable trend with 3D printing technology, in general, was automation. Most additive manufacturing machines are fully automated with the intention of supporting production-line manufacturing, with different stages of the process occurring inside the machine. For example, printing in one area of the machine while simultaneously cleaning or heat treating in another area.
We also took a look at the current state of plastic 3D printers. Applications seem focused on automotive, but I believe this technology is a better fit for parts that do not undergo the stress and testing involved in automotive parts manufacturing. It will probably take time for the automotive industry to fully buy into the plastic parts these machines produce. The size of these machines’ build platforms is increasing, and so are the speeds. The initial price tags, on the other hand, are coming down every year.
International Mold Corp. has not yet invested in any additive machine technology, as the company is focusing on other growth areas. However, we are committed to staying on top of technology advancements in this area so that we are well informed when it is time to invest.
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