Jul.3, 2013

Ford engineers are developing a highly flexible, new form of manufacturing technology that has the potential to reduce costs and delivery time for sheet metal parts needed for low-volume production.

Traditionally it takes six to eight weeks to produce the dies and moulds for a custom part, but Ford has developed a unique, patented manufacturing process to form 3D shape in mere hours. Through this process, called Ford Freeform Fabrication Technology (F3T), a piece of sheet metal is clamped around its edges and formed into a 3D shape by two stylus-type tools working in unison on opposite sides of the sheet metal blank. This new prototyping machine functions similar to a digital printer, after the CAD data of a part are received, computer-generated tool paths control the F3T machine to form the sheet metal part into its final shape to the required dimensional tolerances and surface finish.

Once fully developed, F3T will allow for lower costs and ultrafast delivery times for prototypes - within three business days versus conventional methods that take anywhere from two to six months.

F3T has the potential to allow for greater personalization options. Currently it is still in an early stage, the machine is not fast enough for mass production, but more for low-volume production applications. F3T is also expected to have broad applications outside of the automotive industry, including use in the aerospace, defense, transportation and appliance industries.

The project is part of a three-year, $7.04 million U.S. Department of Energy grant to advance next-generation, energy-efficient manufacturing processes. Led by Ford, other collaborators include Northwestern University, The Boeing Company, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Penn State Erie. Five innovative manufacturing projects were awarded a total of $23.5 million by the Department of Energy in March to advance clean manufacturing and help U.S. companies increase their competitiveness.

Watch below the presentation video of this technology:

Posted in Rapid Prototyping



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Mark Szymanski wrote at 7/10/2013 10:07:48 AM:

What's the difference between that and the dieless NC that exist for several years now? http://www.aminonac.ca/product_e_dieless.asp

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