Feb 6, 2017 | By Tess

Illinois-based machine tool manufacturer Sodick is seeking to change the mold manufacturing game with its OPM250L hybrid 3D printer. The machine is one of the first to combine high-speed milling capabilities (using a 45,000-rpm spindle) with direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).

While a number of hybrid 3D printer-milling machines do exist, most of them incorporate laser deposition additive manufacturing technology. Sodick’s latest offering, however, stands out for using DMLS, an additive manufacturing process which uses a laser to fuse particles from a metal powder bed, building up an object layer by layer. According to the company, the OPM250L is geared towards mold makers, primarily because of its capacity to produce conformal cooling channels within finished molds.

How does the hybrid OPM250L work? Well, starting with its 3D printing technology, the machine builds up the desired object using a bed of metal powder and a 500W fiber optic laser. The laser, which can provide a minimum layer height of 50 microns, prints up to 10 layers of the object before the milling comes in. At that point, the machine’s spindle passes over the 3D printed layers to cut away any surplus materials, effectively finishing the part as it is being built. This process is repeated until the 3D printed part is complete.

45,000-rpm spindle for milling (left), 500W fiber optic laser for 3D printing (right)

With a build volume of 250 x 250 x 250 mm, Sodick’s machine is ideal for manufacturing relatively small but highly complex metal parts. By combining 3D printing with milling technologies, the company explains it can offer parts with higher precision. Moreover, the DMLS process can create parts with up to 99.99% density, and the subsequent milling process allows for standard cutting to a 2-micron Ra surface finish, as well as a shift cut that offers 0.47-micron Ra.

The machine, which is fully automated, also has the potential to make the integration of Internet of Things (IoT) technology much simpler. That is, while individual 3D printers and milling machines would necessitate surveillance and on-the-ground interactions, the hybrid OPM250L can be operated remotely and can manufacture full parts without attendance.

Also significant is the machine’s ability to manufacture in a single print what would normally take multiple individual parts to make up. As the company points outs, its OPM250L can make a complex mold, usually made from 21 individual pieces, in a single print. Using an advanced CAM system, Sodick’s machine can not only import CAD data, but can generate optimal laser and machining data, which allow for these complex parts and molds to be made in a time-efficient manner.

One example demonstrates that the hybrid OPM250L 3D printer was able to manufacture a part that is typically made up of over 30 parts in only two parts, which allowed for lead times to be reduced by 55% and production costs by 38%. As the company stated, “Sodick believes that the OPM250L improves all major areas of concern for mold manufacturers, from lead time to production cost to mold performance.”

For certain applications at least, such as the production of complex molds with conformal cooling channels, hybrid 3D printer-milling machines pose an obvious advantage over more traditional manufacturing processes.



Posted in 3D Printer



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I.AM.Magic wrote at 2/7/2017 8:00:05 AM:

I hope they have the licenses to use that patented technology. DMLS + HSM?, see lumex advance 25

Steve Booth wrote at 2/6/2017 4:34:49 PM:

is it expensive?

mick wrote at 2/6/2017 3:30:32 PM:

Now that's a TOOL

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