“Additive manufacturing” has been live current running through different industrial markets over the past decade, and the buzz is growing louder as concepts and applications appear and commercial entities position themselves for recognition, or re-consideration. The latest example is a machine tool builder asserting a new identity as a supplier of additive manufacturing technology for North America.
MC Machinery Systems has a partnership with Matsuura Machinery Corp. by which it will introduce a “metal laser sintering hybrid milling machine” to the North American market. MC Machinery is wholly owned by Mitsubishi Corp. that designs and supplies a number of machining and fabricating technologies, notably electric-discharge milling (wire EDM and sinker EDM) machines, CNC milling and vertical machining centers, as well as waterjet cutting machines, press brake machines, and other products.
Matsuura Machinery’s Lumex Avance-25 machine is the basis of this partnership. It is said to be the only unified manufacturing system (“one machine, one process,” according to a statement) for manufacturing complex molds and parts by combining metal laser sintering (3D SLS) technology with high-speed milling technology. It produces complex parts by coordinating 3D data with machine programming, and achieves finished parts of exceptional complexity and design accuracy. The notable applications are in die and mold production, where the Lumex Avance-25 has made some commercial progress.
“Dies and molds with very complex geometries can be fabricated in one piece with high accuracy, shortening lead time and reducing manufacturing costs to a half or even a third of conventional methods,” according to MC Machinery Systems’ statement. “Also, 3D cooling channels can be incorporated into molds in the single setup, thereby increasing cooling efficiency and enabling high-cycle injection molding with better than ever quality and precision, reducing costs and improving efficiency.”
The first stage of the path from CAD models to finished parts is the 3D SLS process. Essentially, the CAD is sectioned into layers that can be optimally ‘printed.’ The printing process involves metallic powder deposited on a build platform according to the pattern defined by the sectional diagram. A laser converts the powder to a metallic state, so that each layer is bonded to the preceding layer until the model is realized in 3D.
The compatibility of additive manufacturing and EDM technology has been understood some time: for example, to produce customized surgical implants, high-precision EDM machining is used to define the core of a structure, and additive manufacturing is used to apply a surface geometry that will optimize the implant to promote meshing with the adjacent tissue.
According to MC Machinery Systems, one of the largest suppliers of EDM machines in North America, the new partnership makes sense. In Japan and elsewhere in Asia, Matsuura’s laser-sintering hybrid milling machines have been sold specifically for die and mold manufacturing – but that will change in North America.
“The combination of Matsuura and MMS is a great partnership for the manufacturing base, because we’re a company that’s completely devoted to the manufacturing business,” according to Nick Giannotte, MC Machinery’s vice president for EDM/Milling/Waterjet.
“The mold makers know us and know our people, and we’re excited to be able to offer them this innovative new technology,” he continued. “We have an experienced dealer network, many of whom boast 40% market share in their regions. They have relationships with the markets, not to mention the more than 10,000 person-strong customer base we have at MC Machinery.”
Other market segments they will target include the aircraft industry, where lightweight parts will promote fuel efficiency; and medical devices, which requires customized devices like replacement bones and implants.
The Lumex Avance-25 machine will have applications in automotive, tool and die, and job shop operations, too.
MC Machinery’s technical centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto, and New Jersey are staffed and equipped to demonstrate the LUMEX Avance-25’s capabilities.