32 parts for new Stratasys machine produced via Direct Digital Manufacturing
New FDM 900mc additive fabrication system designed for production of plastic parts/Innovation improves machine precision and part accuracy
Direct digital manufacturing (DDM) is also known as rapid manufacturing. DDM can result in dramatic savings over traditional manufacturing, and ROI can be realized within a handful of projects.
The FDM 900mc machine's touch-screen bezel - one of the 32 parts -would have cost an estimated $100,000 for traditional tooling and required a probable 6-week wait. Traditional tooling is often not cost effective when a company sells a limited number of products per year. With DDM, production parts can be created on demand directly from CAD data, so no tooling is necessary.
"Direct digital manufacturing is not for mass production," says Stratasys FDM Product Manager Patrick Robb. "But if your operations call for limited-run production of certain parts, DDM is much more economical than machining or injection molding. Manufacturing engineers can't afford to ignore the savings."
Because DDM is an emerging process, its benefits and best uses are not widely known. DDM can be a cost-effective alternative to traditional manufacturing methods when any one of these criteria is present:
-Relatively low production volume
-Relatively high design complexity
-High probability of near-term design change
-High start up investment
-No machining or tooling cost
-No waiting for machining or tooling
-Inventory reduction: components can be made on demand
-Design can be changed during production with virtually no penalty
Technology innovation led to advances in the machine's precision. The FDM 900mc is based on a new platform, distinct from previous FDM additive fabrication systems used for production or prototyping. The head gantry is driven by ball screw technology as opposed to previous machines, which are belt driven. This results in a marked improvement in predictability and repeatability. The resulting positional accuracy and part tolerance are substantially improved over previous systems.
Recognised manufacturing industry expert, Graham Tromans from Loughborough University, Leicestershire, UK operates a consulting, design, and production center consortium to assist manufacturers. The program employs an array of fabrication processes. After being introduced to the 900mc he reported: "We are impressed with the [machine] and the potential it opens up for manufacturers. It has high accuracy, repeatability, and build speed. We think it's well-positioned for rapid manufacturing [i.e. direct digital manufacturing]."
In another shift from previous machines, the sizeable build envelope is measured in feet, rather than inches. At 3 ft. x 2 ft. x 3 ft., the enormous build-chamber volume is far larger than competing systems that produce plastic or metal parts.
Manufacturing engineers in the consumer-product, aerospace, and automotive sectors are expected to be the first adopters of this new technology. The most popular applications are fabrication tools and assembly tools, built in the manufacturer's jig and fixture department.
Stratasys and other additive fabrication system makers expect the market for DDM applications will eventually far surpass the market for rapid prototyping and 3D printing applications.
FDM 900mc field beta systems have been performing as expected for several months. To date, seven orders for the new machine have been taken. FDM 900mc units will ship in 2008.
FDM is a registered trademark, and FDM 900mc is a trademark, of Stratasys, Inc.
Stratasys Inc., Minneapolis, makes prototyping and direct digital manufacturing systems. According to Wohlers Report 2007, Stratasys supplied 41 percent of all such systems installed worldwide in 2006, making it the unit market leader for the fifth consecutive year. Stratasys owns the rapid prototyping process known as fused deposition modeling (FDM). The process creates functional prototypes and end-use parts directly from any 3D CAD program, using ABS plastic, polycarbonate, PPSF, and blends. The company holds over 180 granted or pending rapid prototyping patents globally. Stratasys products are used in the aerospace, defense, automotive, medical, education, electronic, and consumer product industries. On the Web: www.Stratasys.com.
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