A novel 3-D metal printing device and process were developed and built at Western Michigan University. This device marries Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW, also known as Metal Inert Gas MIG) with Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) Machining. We integrate additive welding technology (the build-up of metal layers) with the subtractive/machining capabilities of CNC machines; the weld arm is guided by the CNC controller to deposit metal precisely on a predefined path for each layer; then the CNC machining tool removes unwanted material after each additive layer is deposited. This deposition welding (additive) and machining processes (subtractive) is repeated multiple times until the part is produced.
Metal parts made with existing 3D print technologies require secondary operations (e.g., moving and setting-up different stations to machine parts to tolerance specifications & surface finishes) and labor to make the final product. These additional steps add cost and reduce manufacturing throughputs which limits their application to low volume, high-cost parts used in industries like jet propulsion. The high cost of metal prototype/replacement parts prevents many industries from adopting 3-D metal print technologies and limits the US industrial base––and those in Michigan too––from adopting 3-D metal printing. Our innovation overcomes these obstacles. One important advantage is the capabilities to 3D Print and machine metal parts with cavities, hollow structures, and overhangs allowing to produce metal parts with complex internal and external geometries on one setup without removing from the machine.
- A novel 3-D metal printing device and process were developed and built that marries Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW, also known as MIG) with Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) Machining
- How the technology allows customers to eliminate the additional steps and costs of machining parts on separate stations, e.g., machining immediately after each layer of metal is deposited.
- 3D metal printer using industrial CNC controllers, components, and sensors to print 3D metal parts with precision, i.e., 0.0001.” enables to 3D printing with complex geometries (overhangs / cavities)