Even with its advantages and disadvantages, 3-D printing is continuously evolving with new materials, including a range of metals, and better software, lasers, and other technologies critical to the AM process allowing a range of new finished-part possibilities, made at faster rates, and within tighter tolerances.

Methods3D Inc., a subsidiary of Methods Machine Tools, Inc., is a new company partnering with 3D Systems to develop production “ecosystems” that incorporate traditional subtractive technologies with 3-D technologies to produce better parts faster.

According to FabShop, one example of this concept was the company’s Figure 4 workcell showcased at the International Manufacturing Technology Show 2016 in Chicago. The workcell module featured six print engines that simultaneously printed different parts on different plates, using different materials. Aided by Fanuc robots, the parts were loaded and offloaded as parts were built.

After production, components were moved to post-processing stations including two different cleaning stations, an air blast and a wash module, a final cure station, and then inspected with imaging technology.  While the parts were undergoing these subsequent steps, other parts were in the machine being built.

Essentially, this autonomous assembly line took bottled resin and transformed it into a finished part with little human involvement other than during programming.

3D Systems Metal 3D Printing machine and metal printed parts
Image Source: FabShop Magazine Direct

>>Read more by Larry Adams, FabShop Magazine Direct, 2016-12-07

Revving Up 3-D production