I had the good fortune to be able to attend the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show at the McCormick Center in Chicago this week. IMTS is a manufacturing show that exhibits cutting edge technologies in aerospace, automotive, manufacturing and medical industries, and is attended by over 100,000 people each year.
The vastness of the McCormick Center is a bit overwhelming, but with a bit of planning you can focus on the areas you are most interested in.
This show over the last few years has seen an increase in the presence of 3D printing manufacturers. As this technology becomes more mature and increases its acceptance in industry, the possibilities of 3D printing becoming a welcome partner on the factory floor are increasing exponentially.
3D printing, as most know, is a process in which layers of material are deposited on a substrate and progressively build up layers in a Z ( height ) direction until the part is completed. This is true regardless of the material being deposited, whether it is metal, plastic, concrete or bio-material.
The Stratasys Robotic Composite 3D Demonstrator
One system, Stratasys’ Robotic Composite 3D Demonstrator, stood out from all of the others as not your typical 3D printer. The system resembles more of a welding apparatus or other industrial automated devices. This is because at the heart of it is a large orange robotic arm moving in 5 axes of freedom and a platform that moves in 3 axes.
This allows it to print across fused layers adding strength to the part. This is very important when printing a composite material. Support material is not needed making build times much faster. As much as ten times compared to Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM).
The head has the potential to be mounted in factory automation structures that would it to fit into manufacturing floor configurations as part of the workflow process.
Although not yet commercially available, this advancement in 3D printing technology implementation gets us much closer to the goal of mass produced additive manufactured components.