Phase One: The PartnershipIn early October, GFMS announced a partnership deal with global metal additive leader, EOS, to design a new approach to industrial 3D printing that could offer a road to true industrialization. “With this partnership, we are combining our two companies’ expertise and technologies,” explained Andrew Snow, senior vice president of EOS North America.
Fitting the Mold
The AM S 290, Ledvon and Snow agree, is just the start of this project—an introduction of GFMS customers to the largely unexplored field of additive manufacturing.
In this case, it means the first step to industrialization begins with GFMS’s largest customer base: mold and die makers.
“The idea behind the project is to provide a new solution for the mold maker,” Ledvon says. “The mold maker knows us; the mold maker knows our service department; and the mold maker knows our application teams. So what we’re trying to bring is this new additive manufacturing technology to these mold makers to provide them a new tool to make better components.”
In terms of industrialization of the technology, 3D printing molds is a perfect start.
As Ledvon explains, mold makers are already pushing the limits of traditional machining. As the demand for smaller, more intricate and complicated parts rises, the injection molds used to create them must be equally intricate and complicated.
These molds require impossible heating and cooling channels and confounding engineering feats to provide the particular, consistent characteristics the OEM customers need.
That’s where additive comes in.
The Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) process works one layer at a time, depositing particle-thin layers of metal powder down on the build plate and then melting exactly the shapes and contours needed for a component with a precision laser. The process is repeated, layer by micro-thin layer, until the part is fully grown from the bottom up.
Because of this unique process, engineers can design any construction or architecture they can dream up inside a solid structure, creating cavities, circuits, and textures where no machine tool could ever reach.
For mold makers, this is a game-changer.
|See: Additive Mold Making: The Real World Test|
“With this technology, engineers can design conformant cooling circuits into their molds to shorten the cooling time and shorten the cycle time,” Ledvon said. “It will help them with productivity; it will help them with quality of the part. They will get faster parts in better quality.”
According to Snow, this can add up to a mind-blowing 60% reduction in cycle times, while also reducing scrap rates, freeing up machine tools, and generally saving time and money across the enterprise.
All of this sounds fantastic. It’s a sales pitch that can’t miss: Better parts, faster and cheaper. It seems too good to be true.