Big data, the Internet of Things, and manufacturing innovation were among the themes at a recent meeting for the National Science Foundation’s IMS Center workshop on Industry 4.0 and next-generation manufacturing. The event took place at Tech Solve Inc., a manufacturing consulting firm in Cincinnati. The IMS (Intelligent Maintenance Systems) Center is a research center consisting of the University of Cincinnati, the University of Michigan, and Missouri University of Science & Technology. At the meeting, we found a few interesting demonstrations that help illustrate state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques and research into the industrial Internet of Things – in Germany, better known as Industry 4.0.
On-the-cheap metal 3D printing with lasers
What you see here is an old Fadal CNC machine that TechSolve is testing which was modified as a way to 3D-print metal with powder-fed deposition system. Engineers say they ripped out all the servos in the 1990s-vintage equipment, which was purchased on eBay. MachMotion retrofitted an Optomec LENS (Laser Engineered and Net Shaping) 3D print engine that turned the apparatus into a hybrid tool that can do additive and subtractive manufacturing. The whole outlay came to about $500,000, a big deal because a brand new hybrid machine can cost upward of $2 million. The Optomec LENS print engine sinters metal parts using powdered metal, inert gas and a laser. The layers can be 0.012-in. deep. TechSolve engineers say the printing process for a large part can be slow, a factor that limits the potential applications of this approach. The CNC portion of the machine mills away excess metal to shape whatever is being tooled. Tech Solve figures one possible use for such machines is in high-dollar aerospace parts and repairs, where slow builds are not really an issue.
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Filed Under: Bearings, IoT • IIoT • internet of things • Industry 4.0