A new process combining metal 3D printing and five-axis CNC machining to quickly deliver complex, low-volume components has been launched in China.
A rapid prototyping manufacturer has launched a new process called AddSub manufacturing. STAR Prototype, a British-owned company based in Guandong Province, China, developed the service after it identified a significant demand for a one-stop-shop for such components.
The process combines metal 3D printing and five-axis CNC machining to quickly deliver complex, low-volume components that would previously have required the input of two separate companies.
Rapid prototyping is a group of techniques used to quickly fabricate a scale model of a physical part or assembly using three-dimensional CAD data. Construction of the part or assembly is usually done using 3D printing or “additive layer manufacturing” technology.
“Most metal 3D printed parts are not used as prototypes, but as complex low-volume manufactured components,” explains Gordon Styles, president of STAR.
“Many of these parts need certain high-precision features that are virtually impossible to produce with 3D printing alone.
“Problems arise because most 3D printing companies don’t carry out secondary machining, meaning the customer needs to take care of the work themselves or farm it out to specialist machining companies.”
STAR has removed this time-consuming and often error-strewn leg from the manufacturing process with the development of AddSub manufacturing.
The new system allows parts to be transferred directly from its 3D printing machines onto its CNC machines without having to be removed from the build plate – a development that also resolves the troublesome issue of subcontractors getting to grips with 3D printed parts.
“STAR is world-renowned for its CNC machining capabilities and our forward thinking approach to adopting new technology and improving customer service provision,” continues Gordon Styles.
“AddSub was very much born out of a combination of the two and we are confident it will prove of enormous benefit to businesses across the globe.”
STAR sees the subtractive CNC element of AddSub as being ideal for mating faces, precision bores, tapped holes, spigots and other very necessary high-precision features, and feels AddSub is likely to be of particular use to the motorsport, aerospace, military, medical and dental fields.