Source: Innovation in Textiles/Inside Composites | March 31, 2017
Techmer PM, a leading materials design company, has collaborated with several industry partners to develop tooling equipment via additive manufacturing. While the aerospace industry has led the paradigm shift to 3D printed tooling, the automotive sector is also now investing in this promising area, the company reports.
The 3D printed tools are designed for large-scale transportation and industrial applications, in addition to aerospace and military. Techmer PM collaborated with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), Boeing, TruDesign, and BASF on the 3D printed tooling development.
Techmer PM custom formulated high-temperature polymer materials with carbon fibre that ORNL used to 3D print the tools. During testing, the 100% 3D printed tools successfully endured multiple autoclave cure cycles, withstanding temperatures over 355 F and pressures of 90 psi, the manufacturer reports.
The tools were printed on a Cincinnati Incorporated Big Area Additive Manufacturing machine (BAAM) and machined on a Thermwood 5-axis CNC machining centre, both located at ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility. The tools were surface finished by TruDesign.
“We are very pleased with the results of this collaboration, which demonstrated how 3D printing generates significant time and cost savings, operational efficiencies, and design freedom and enables minimal touch labour,” commented Tom Drye, vice president of emerging markets and innovation at Techmer PM.
According to the manufacturer, production time and cost associated with additive manufacturing is one-fifth to one-tenth that of conventional tooling methods, which typically require up to a 12-month lead time to procure the feedstock and machine metal tooling. High-tech tooling processes are also said to afford greater design freedom by storing information via a digital file that enables engineers to make quick changes throughout the design and development process and easily produce additional tools when one becomes damaged or needs modification.