3D technologies more and more often become the center of attention at trade fairs, which reflects the businesses getting ready for implementing innovative 3D solutions into their production chains.
For mechanical engineering, as one of the key fields of any economy, developments of new equipment and application of advanced equipment is really important. 3D technologies are perfect for these requirements. Progressing, they become more efficient, allowing the businesses to shorten and simplify the technological process and optimize the production costs.
As an example, creating a prototype using a 3D printer will take just several hours instead of months as would be the case with traditional production. This will significantly reduce the amount of time spent finishing the design and the launch of mass production, which will also cut the cost of the whole project. Thanks to using 3D scanners and reverse engineering and geometry control software, time and expense will be reduced by 1.5 times on average.
7 Success Stories
Hydraulic Valve Block
The final CAD-file of a Valve Block, ready to be printed
The design of a new hydraulic valve block, developed by VTT and Nurmi Cylinders was optimized using the Selective Laser Melting (SLM) technology, which allowed to save weight, volume, and resources significantly. The result was a product with the weight being 66% smaller than that of an initial model. Thanks to the innovative design, it was possible to optimize fluid flow in the internal channels and eliminate the leakage problem.
A scheme of a full-metal liquid-gas mixer, made using the SLM technology. Lower right: the initial model consisting of 12 elements.
Rapid Prototyping Office JUREC that uses equipment by SLM Solutions has realized a project of improving a liquid-gas mixer. An initial design of the device consisted of 12 parts including 3 case components – first and second flange case connection and a mixer insertion. Selective Laser Melting allowed for the creation of a single-unit case, reducing the number of details from 12 to 1. It eliminated the need to use several types of metal and flange connection: a single-unit case just uses an inner thread which reduced the weight from 1.3 kg to 50 g. Production time was cut in half. And finally, the costs of production were reduced by 73%.
More practical examples of metal 3D printing applications
Hydroacoustic Antenna Splitter
To the left: 3D printed two-part master pattern. To the right: removing a resulting part from a silicon form.
Concern Oceanpribor JSC (Saint Petersburg, Russia) produces communication systems for the Russian Navy, including equipment with a big number of parts. For example, a splitter is one of the main components of a new hydroacoustic antenna. For rapid prototyping when casting parts, the Concern utilizes a professional 3D printer that uses the CJP technology. The machine is used for growing a casting form, which will be filled with silicon afterward. The silicon form can be filled with any other material, in this case, it’s polyurethane. A result is a master model for producing forms, not just a prototype but a functional ready-to-work part. Bringing this project to life would take several months with the standard methods, but using a 3D printer managed to reduce the development time of the antenna to 3 weeks.
Gas Turbine Engine Components
A wax model grown using 3D printing and a resulting model.
An American company named Turbine Technologies, Ltd. developed a modification for combustion engines on which high-pressure turbines are installed. The company bought a wax 3D printer and get a final casting within 3-4 days. Wax models are now produced directly from CAD 3D Models, while a foundry of Turbine Technologies now produces the components for gas turbine engine prototypes with higher accuracy and at smaller costs.
Components and Hardpoints for Aircraft Industry
Polymer 3D printing using the QuickCast technology allows for saving time and money since it makes it possible to work without expensive rigging.
Vaupell develops production solutions for foundries that work on the orders for the aerospace and arms industries. Thanks to an STL 3D printer, the company has managed to radically increase production efficiency. The printer features a special photopolymer printing mode named QuickCast that can reproduce a thin-walled external shell of a part and fills the inner voids with a cellular infill. The QuickCast models replace traditional castings and don’t require expensive rigging. This way, the company has reduced the cost of castings by 95%.
Geometry control of a Pump Housing
Deviation map of the lining geometry
iQB Technologies completed the project that included 3D scanning a pump housing after mechanical treatment and a separate 3D scanning of housing with lining for coating thickness control. At the first stage, the product was digitized using the Creaform HandySCAN 700 handheld 3D-scanner, the result was a high-poly 3D model of the pump housing. After that, the specialists conducted a geometry deviation control using the Geomagic Control X software. Detected deviation in coating creates additional pressure to the housing, reducing its lifetime. The project was completed in just 4 hours.
Reverse Engineering of a Wheel of a Water Turbine
3D scanning a wheel of a water turbine for reverse engineering purposes
Dependable Industries (a manufacturer of cast models and tools, based in Vancouver, Canada) has asked a businessman from 3D Rev Eng named Matthew Percival for help with engineering a casting of a wheel of a radial turbine. Geomagic Design X software for reverse engineering allows for creating the models with complex shapes within hours while producing these using traditional technologies would require several weeks. Thanks to Geomagic Design X the time spent on reverse engineering was reduced by 50%, while production costs were cut by 48%.
3D technologies have limitations as well. These include the high cost of equipment and materials, knowledge gaps, a lack of specialists, and difficulties with integration in traditional technological chains. Today, additive methods can’t fully replace traditional technologies but they prove to be economically profitable for prototyping and small-batch production and become the only possible solution for producing complex small-sized parts. In the end, using 3D printing, scanning, and modeling technologies allow to bring the new products to the market faster and that means increasing the competitive ability of mechanical engineering businesses.