Wednesday, April 8, 2015
3D printing is coming along. They are now printing parts out of metal. They use powdered metal in your choice of flavors, and zap it with a laser which melts it. Essentially they are making parts by laying down a continuous bead of molten metal. Some characters in Australia claim to be making parts for jet engines using this technique. I have my doubts. Some parts, possibly, for prototypes perhaps, but real production parts for high stress locations, I don't see it. Not this week anyway.
The part being made in the picture above was six feet tall when it was finished. It's about half way done here. It took 2 weeks to make. It would be a real trick to make it using conventional techniques. It's possible that some parts built this way could be stronger than ones that were conventionally made.
The surface finish is coarse. I'm not sure what you could do about that, unless the layers you were putting down were really thin, like a ten-thousandth of an inch. That could make your robot really tired because it would have to make a 100 times as many passes. And then you've got all your thermal constraints and metal crystallography. Ought to keep the whiz kids busy for the next few years at least.
P.S. None of the videos I found were worth a sh**. I would think that with something as cool as this someone could make a really cool video, but all the ones I saw were just crap, with narrators blathering on about saving money. I'm thinking no one has really grasped what can be done with these machines.