3D Printing Metal: The Advantages of Direct Metal Laser Sintering

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Did you know that metal parts can be 3D printed? It happens via a process called Digital Metal Laser Sintering or DMLS. DMLS is a form of additive manufacturing that uses metal powders and precision lasers to create the desired part. The technology operates on the basis of a 3D CAD file which specifies how complex a design should be.

So, how exactly does DMLS printing work? What happens is this: a thin layer of metal powder is evenly distributed across the bed of the printer. By following a CAD file, a precision laser sinters (heats and fuses) the metal powder particles to replicate the specified design. This process is repeated with additional layers of metal powder until the desired shape and size is achieved. In essence, parts are produced one metal cross section at a time.

Now that you know how DMLS works, let’s have a look at some of its advantages:

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5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Metal Fabrication Process

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Basic metal fabrication involves the forming, shaping, or joining of metal. Typically, this happens through deforming or removing some portions of the raw material.

To many, metal fabrication may seem like a simple one or two step process. But the fact of the matter is, it’s much more detailed and comprehensive than simply pulling metal pieces off the inventory shelf. Here we’ll explore different aspects of metal fabrication to help you be more informed the next time you need to rely on the services of a fabricator:

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8 Tips for Making Any Woodworking Project Successful

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If you’re a new woodworker, safety and precision are likely two things you keep top of mind at all times. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. As many a skilled woodworker will tell you, any project requires your attention in several different places at once…and this can be difficult as well as dangerous.

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The Hidden Health Dangers of Sawdust

Let’s put it this way: investing in a dust collector can really go along way, especially when it comes to your health. If you regularly spend time working wood, you know how much of a nuisance sawdust can be. It flies all over the place, gets into your power tools, coats your hand tools, and keeps you from breathing clean, fresh air. But that’s not all it does.

Experts and OSHA agree that sawdust poses a serious health risk to those who are overexposed to it. Not only is sawdust an irritant that affects your eyes, nose, and throat, but it’s a known carcinogen that may cause cancer.

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The Future of Manufacturing: Are We in the Midst of a Robot Takeover?

Robots often get a bad rap. Sci-fi novels and films have painted them as evildoers looking to take over our lives and our jobs. Pundits and politicians have largely done the same. But today’s innovative technology is proving that quite the opposite is true. Not only are robots creating jobs but they’re also making existing jobs more convenient. And, to top it all off, they work side-by-side with humans in a relatively peaceable manner.

They’re helping manufacturers turn bigger profits and making operations more efficient. They’re powerhouse machines that can work hour after hour without fatiguing to the point of needing a break. They don’t require salaries or benefits which prompts manufacturers to allocate money for other uses–such as hiring a robot operator or maintenance technician.

And because these machines can do repetitive tasks endlessly with a high degree of accuracy, they boost employees’ productivity in other areas that require a human touch.

Simply put: Robots act as a cost-effective and complementary component on the warehouse floor which makes for a higher quality product that consumers are compelled to by.

Types of Robots

While entertainment of the Sci-fi variety has conditioned us to believe that most or all robots take on human-like forms, the reality is that in manufacturing this simply isn’t true. Sure, some have arms and even “eyes” but for the most part, industrial robots are just…well, machines that help people get stuff done.

Here’s a look at some of the robot types on warehouse floors today:

  1. Cartesian Robots:  Typically used in the automotive and auto component industries, Cartesian robots are noted for their linear movement and ability to move and carry heavy loads. Manufacturers rely on them for accuracy and repeatability when cutting drilling, stamping, or welding materials. Because of their versatility, especially in metal fabrication operations, these robots are gaining popularity in the metal and food/beverage packaging industries.
  2. Articulated Robots:  Articulated robots are distinctly different than Cartesian robots in that they use rotating movement to achieve a full range of motion. They’re most often used in the automotive industry for assembling and material handling but they can also be used for welding, picking, cutting, and spraying materials.
  3. SCARA Robots:  Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arms or SCARA robots have a parallel axis joint that acts as an arm and are used to for assembly, pick and place, and loading/unloading operations. In comparison to Cartesian robots, SCARA robots are cleaner and faster and more suited to high speed assembly. They’re often used in the automotive, electrical, and electronics industries.

Companies Making a Splash in Robotics

Many companies have happily adopted robotics as a key component in their business strategy. These are just a few:

1. Amazon Robotics LLC

Formerly known as Kiva Systems and acquired by Amazon in 2012, Amazon Robotics LLC uses robots to provide smarter, faster, and more consistent customer service. The robots, which move autonomously around the warehouse floor, are used to make warehousing operations like picking and packing quicker, easier, and more efficient all around.

While Amazon has no plans to share the technology with competitors, the Kiva Systems acquisition opened up a world of robotics possibilities for other companies to explore.

2. Kuka Robotics

Kuka Robotics produces a number of industrial robots designed specifically to aid manufacturers in production. Kuka strives to customize a manufacturer’s robotics experience by tailor-making robots to a specific need. Altogether, there are eight types of Kuka robots:

  • Six axis robots
  • Welding
  • Cleanroom
  • Shelf-mounted
  • Palletizers
  • Heat-resistant
  • Press-to-press
  • High accuracy

Each one comes equipped with a dependable, programmable PC-based system that manufacturers can use to streamline their production processes.

3. Rethink Robotics  

Rethink Robotics provides manufacturers with robots that can easily adapt to real world variability. Using embedded cameras that work as “eyes,” these robots–called Baxter and Sawyer–can change applications quickly as well as ‘feel’ their way through any task. As such, they can perform a wide variety of tasks and work around obstacles that may hinder progress on a job.

All in all, technology has advanced to the point where industrial robots can be an asset to manufacturing companies. While robots are changing the way companies do business, they are largely acting as collaborators that can work side-by-side with humans to help meet or exceed goals. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it should be embraced as a mark of progress that helps companies and workers alike expand their knowledge of industry and the possibilities that lie ahead.

 

8 Awesome Things You Can Make with a 3D Printer

 

3D printing is revolutionizing the manufacturing industry. As the technology becomes better and faster, the products 3D printers can make are becoming more advanced. From cookware and clothes to food and instruments, 3D printed items are helping to make the world more interesting and convenient place. Here are a just a few of the cool items you can make with a 3D printer...

Image Source: fdecomite

1. Food

It may seem strange, but 3D printing is so advanced now that you can even print your own food. With 3D food printing growing in popularity, a company called Natural Machines created Foodini, a 3D printer designed specifically to produce food. It lets you make edible pizzas, burgers, and even chocolate!

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2. Clothes

3D printing is becoming a big trend in the fashion industry, all thanks to burlesque dancer Dita von Teese who sported a fully articulated 3D printed dress just a few years ago. Fashion designers have been incorporating 3D printed pieces into their collections ever since.

Image Source: pestoverde

3. Prosthetics

3D printing is helping people all over the world reclaim their autonomy with prosthetic limbs. Organizations like University of Toronto and The Open Hand Project are making use of the technology to provide kids and adults alike with the prosthetics they need.

4. Musical Instruments

Guitars, flutes, violins, and saxophones are just a few of the musical instruments that have been 3D printed thus far. At Lund University in Sweden, the first live performance using 3D printed instruments was conducted in 2013.

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pestoverde

5. Wood

Using wood filament made from wood chips and polymer, 3D printers can now also print wood-like objects. With this method, you can make a variety of geometric shapes that can sometimes be difficult to achieve with traditional woodworking. Unlike woodworking, though, the end product is hollow and does not have a natural grain.

Image Source: creative_tools

6. Vehicles

Strati, the first 3D printed car made its debut back in 2014. It was printed layer upon layer from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic which is a strong and decently priced material. The car is, in fact, drivable but is not designed to be used on major roadways.

Image Source: lenore-m

7. Toys

Whether you’re making a well-known cartoon character or tinkering with your own designs, 3D printing makes creating kids’ toys a super fun and creative process. Mattel recently announced that it would soon be releasing a 3D printer for kids to help them make their own toys.

Image Source: golanlevin



8. Dishware

Need a new set of dishes? A 3D printer can help you make one. But keep in mind that 3D printed materials aren’t dishwasher safe and can attract and retain various bacteria. To keep 3D printed dishes bacteria-free, you might try sealing them with a food-safe sealant or epoxy to cover any crevices in the material.

Image Credit: creative_tools



Job Training Programs: How 4 Companies are Closing the Manufacturing Skills Gap

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Over the next decade, an estimated 3.4 million jobs will need to be filled in the manufacturing sector. The problem? Candidates with the right skills to fill those positions will be few and far between.

To close this skills gap, these four companies are taking matters into their own hands:

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