Developing Hybrid Additive/Subtractive Manufacturing Technology in Partnership With RIT, Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies and IPG Photonics
ELMIRA, N.Y. – Hardinge Inc. (NASDAQ:HDNG), a leading international provider of advanced metal-cutting solutions and accessories, announced today that Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) recently acquired a Bridgeport GX 250 5-axis vertical machining center for use in a collaborative partnership to integrate additive manufacturing functions into the GX 250 traditional machining platform. In addition to RIT and Hardinge, partners on the project include Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies, based in Dallas, Texas, and IPG Photonics, of Oxford, Mass.
Mr. James Langa, Hardinge's Senior Vice President of Machine Solutions, commented, "Manufacturers are constantly in search of new processes that are flexible, improve part quality and reduce overall cost. We believe that the combination of additive and subtractive technology coupled with precise five-axis machine tool capability has strong potential for real-world industrial applications. Adopting, adapting and advancing cutting edge technologies for the benefit of our customers is vital to our growth strategy." Hardinge will be providing field service, design and applications engineering for the program.
Ronald Aman, project lead and assistant professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering in RIT's Kate Gleason College of Engineering, noted, "Today there is no commercial software that can reliably generate the tool paths that are necessary to control both additive and subtractive processes in five-axis equipment. This presents a real challenge for mainstream adoption. We will be addressing this challenge by focusing on improving process planning and tool path generation, developing new materials, advancing overall process development and identifying new applications, as well as fundamental research aimed at radically changing the way we think of materials in a part."
The GX 250 is a multi-axis machining center that produces precision parts through traditional manufacturing processes. A high precision process, the machine mechanically cuts away material from a block using exacting motion control of rotating tools. RIT researchers will incorporate additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, capabilities to the original machine to take advantage of the geometric freedom afforded by additive manufacturing while meeting aerospace tolerance requirements.
Integration of multiple processes, such as laser additive manufacturing and milling or turning, into a single platform is a new and rapidly growing field referred to as hybrid manufacturing. The hybrid manufacturing process has many advantages such as lower costs and improved accuracy, but also has unique capabilities such as dynamically changing a part's material composition as it is being built.
As part of the integration process, the researchers will be incorporating multiple powder feeders to blow metal or ceramic powder into the melt-pool, a type of 3D-printing function known as directed energy deposition. Multiple powder feeders will allow the use of more than one material for a product, including a combination of metals and ceramics or two or more metals.
"Imagine the power of smoothly transitioning materials, such as from copper to tool steel, or even ceramics in the future. This eliminates the abrupt material composition change that is nearly always the failure point for materials that have vastly different mechanical or thermal characteristics," said Professor Aman, who has expertise in the development of direct-metal additive manufacturing processes. He also has background in researching and developing the hybrid additive and subtractive metal manufacturing processes of single and multi-materials systems. "There are not, to my knowledge, any other processes that will have the capabilities of this system," he added.
Professor Aman and Mr. Langa jointly concluded, "The partnership between RIT and Hardinge is a critical step to advance the hybrid ideas out of the laboratory and make it possible for companies to apply this new technology in production processes."
The Bridgeport GX 250, which was installed in the Brinkman Machine Tools and Manufacturing Lab located in RIT's Kate Gleason College of Engineering, will be part of the lab's extensive series of high-precision machining tools and equipment. It will also be used to support research in the AMPrint Center for Advanced Technology, a new university-corporate partnership focusing on expanding additive manufacturing and multi-functional printing capabilities, considered key economic drivers in New York State.
Hardinge is a leading global designer and manufacturer of high precision, computer-controlled machine tool solutions developed for critical, hard-to-machine metal parts and of technologically advanced workholding accessories. The Company's strategy is to leverage its global brand strength to further penetrate global market opportunities where customers will benefit from the technologically advanced, high quality, reliable products Hardinge produces. With approximately two thirds of its sales outside of North America, Hardinge serves the worldwide metal working market. Hardinge's machine tool and accessory solutions can also be found in a broad base of industries to include aerospace, agricultural, automotive, construction, consumer products, defense, energy, medical, technology and transportation.
Hardinge applies its engineering design and manufacturing expertise in high performance machining centers, high-end cylindrical and jig grinding machines, SUPER-PRECISION® and precision CNC lathes and technologically advanced workholding accessories. Hardinge has manufacturing operations in China, France, Germany, India, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
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