Additive manufacturing has come of age and we’ve been enthusiastically involved in a project that’s bringing it several steps closer to maturity.
Additive manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing as it’s often known, first emerged some decades ago, but in recent years it has started to enter the mainstream. The latest techniques and supporting technologies mean AM processes can meet increasingly demanding production requirements. We’ve been exploring AM as a production method and how its many advantages can benefit our customers across various solutions using different types of AM.
We’re known as the drive and control company, and the machines and components we make require a great deal of precision. This means, in many ways, we represent an ultimate test case for the efficacy of AM.
Joint development delivers new approach
One of our recent projects has involved bringing a high-end additive manufacturing approach to the production of our hydraulic systems, and in particular to the servo valves they include. We’ve been working closely with two organizations, each of them highly respected in their fields. TRUMPF is a family-owned business specializing in the development of machine tools and lasers for industrial production, while Heraeus Additive Manufacturing has expertise in the production of powder materials.
Our joint development project has focused on the production of servo valves using the selective laser melting (SLM) method. This entails spherical metal powders with particles 30-60 microns in diameter being wiped into a box and laser-melted with high precision. After each pass, the chamber is moved down a few microns and a new layer is applied, gradually building the valve component.
Together our three organizations have addressed the entire process, from a design that’s been optimized for 3D printing through to the finished servo valve. Heraeus has provided the specialized powder; we’ve overseen the overall design and post-treatment of components; and TRUMPF has used the project to road-test new prototype machinery in the form of the TRUMPF TruPrint 5000, which is set to move into full-scale industrial production – possibly as early as later this year.
Transforming design and manufacture
There are a number of benefits to this joint approach. It means that, rather than adapting current approaches, we’re creating a whole new way of designing. We can change the housing or another physical aspect of the product in a manner that simply wasn’t practical using conventional manufacturing methods. We can shape the oil flow through the valve in ways that weren’t previously possible. Furthermore we can reduce product weight by using lattice structures – less important in this application, perhaps, but of great significance in other instances, where equipment in motion is involved.
There are also broader advantages. Functionally, this advanced approach to precision engineering means we have better integration of processes, and greater control over mechanical properties, giving us new options on how things work together.
We’ve used these techniques to create hybrid models, where bespoke small-run AM variants are laid down on conventional batch-run preformed base layers.
Even more importantly, this approach means we can serve our customers better. Times from set-up to delivery can be reduced from weeks to days – and because of this flexibility, there’s no longer a prerequisite for manufacturing in volume. It means it’s both possible and practical to produce in one-off batches. A process that that makes prototyping even easier and more affordable.
Learn more about additive manufacturing for hydraulic manifolds:
How sand turns into a hydraulic manifold
The joint development project to produce servo valves using advanced AM techniques has delivered substantial benefits with significant implications for manufacturing industry as a whole.
Customer individual products:
- Flexible production from Batch Size 1
- Short time-to-manufacture, from weeks to days
- Optimized oil flow
- Reduced pressure loss (delta pressure)
- Reduction of screw plugs/leakage spots
Weight and design optimization:
- Lattice structures
- Reduced part weights
- Flexible internal and external geometry
- New or optimized functionality
- Better control of mechanical properties
- Improved sustainability