A company is teaching old machines some 3D-printing tricks

A company is teaching old machines some 3D-printing tricks
6 Mar, 2018

A US-based firm is trying to breathe new life into old computer-controlled machines and printers to help them cope in the age of 3D printing. 

3D Hybrid Solutions, which is headquartered at Pittsburgh, specialises in different kinds of computer numeric control (CNC) machines.

CNC machining is a process used in the manufacturing sector which  involves the use of computers to control machine tools. Tools that can be controlled in this manner include mills, routers and grinders. 

By adding new tools to them, it is giving these devices 3D-printing capabilities, thereby turning them into hybrid machinery.

According to 3D Hybrid Solutions, the new additive manufacturing abilities lower the cost of metal 3D printing, increases speed and adds the ability of printing multi-material parts. 

The company is currently offering three tools for three different applications: Wire-Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM), Laser Metal Deposition (LMD) and Cold Spray.

“Changing the understanding of these DED [Directed Energy Deposition] technologies to tools rather than machines is critical to economical application of hybrid manufacturing,” Karl Hranka, founder of 3D Hybrid, was quoted as saying by 3DPrint.com

Hranka said that the Wire-Arc tool runs on dip-transfer technology and can be used for making alloys as it works with a variety of options such as wire and blending powder materials. The tool is priced at a base of $50,000. 

Explaining the Cold Spray tool, the founder said that the process was best suited for alloys with high heat absorption capabilities.

“Just like using different cutting tools for different metals, we suggest different printing tools for some of the more special alloys,” Hranka was quoted as saying. “Take copper for example: Cold Spray enables effective deposition due the use of kinetic energy to plastically deform the metal particles into a feature, rather than managing copper’s very high thermal conductivity and reflectivity properties.”

The founder also said that his company had based the new tools on electrical, optical and kinetic energy after its experience in polymetallic alloy additive manufacturing for aerospace and research applications.

3D Hybrid Solutions' efforts come at a time when printing companies are having to reinvent themselves to stay relevant. 

Even within the 3D printing space, the picture for desktop 3D printing looks much gloomier after two companies in the segment got shuttered recently, probably owing to a mighty squeeze from cheap do-it-yourself kits that allow easy, widespread and accessible 3D-manufacturing for all.

In January, Oakland-based Type A Machines reported that it was shutting down operations. Following in its footsteps, Pasadena-based New Matter announced its decision to shut shop.