It seems curious now that "additive manufacturing" should be regarded as anything novel or extraordinary. It was merely four years ago that the organizers of IMTS 2014 instituted a special pavilion to display the support technologies and design and production potential for additive manufacturing systems. Now, additive manufacturing is an extension of most CNC machine developers, and additive manufacturing figures prominently in the design and automation programs that inform the wide field of manufacturing technologies.
The machine tool builders figured out the contiguity of these technologies long ago: their incorporation of additive manufacturing into the spectrum of their manufacturing concepts and capabilities — as "hybrid manufacturing" — demonstrates not merely the breadth of their understanding but the potential for growth as design and production become increasing fluid and interactive.
At IMTS 2016, CNC machine giant Mazak Corp. made its commitment official with the first demonstration of its “hybrid multi-tasking” machining concept, centered on its VC-500 AM five-axis system, able to machine large-dimension parts as well as to apply additive technology with a laser-powered cladding head tool. The latter function imparted high-quality finishing details in multiple materials, accomplishing both material and geometric details as the part’s application may indicate.
Just two years have passed, and the next phase of innovation will be displayed at IMTS 2018. Mazak will introduce its VC-500A/5X AM HWD multi-tasking machine, which it reported will offer "part processing capabilities beyond those of conventional multi-tasking to reduce lead times and part costs, increase machining accuracy and part quality and achieve even higher levels of productivity, flexibility and profitability."
The VC-500A/5X AM HWD incorporates a new additive manufacturing technology called "Hot Wire" that Mazak developed with Lincoln Electric Corp., the arc-welding/plasma and oxy-fuel cutting technology and product specialists.
According to Mazak, with Hot Wire laser deposition, the VC-500A/5X AM HWD offers a high-speed additive solution and programmable welding automation, in addition to the full five-axis machining capabilities of the Mazak VMC that is the core of the unit.
As in arc welding, a torch melts metal wire to apply a new structural element to a base material and/or part; the wire and workpiece may be similar or dissimilar, but the fusion is completed. Machine shops or other manufacturers can achieve "exceptionally precise sealing coatings along with near-net shape part features, or use the machine to repair costly complex components such as impellers and turbine blades, along with tool-and-die parts,” according to Mazak.
The VC-500A/5X AM HWD’s laser cladding head has the same five-axis capability as its milling spindle, so the machine can be full programmed to add new part features or weldments on all of surfaces of a workpiece. “It is well suited for high-volume additive manufacturing and helps minimize equipment and material costs,” Mazak emphasized.
The Hot Wire head incorporates an automatic wire-feeder system that delivers welding wire to an argon gas nozzle. The head achieves a deposition rate of three to four pounds per hour, with a 98% material utilization rate.
The VC-500A/5X AM HWD has a trunnion-style rotary/tilt table for processing small, complex parts with five-axis flexibility. It also features the MAZATROL SmoothX CNC and MTConnect capability to simplify programming and increase cycle times. It’s also networkable, for full digital manufacturing.
As for its milling functions, the VC-500A/5X AM HWD is supplied with a CAT-40, 12,000-rpm spindle as standard, for exceptional metal removal with all common materials (steel, aluminum, cast iron. Speeds of 15,000 rpm and 20,000 rpm are available to address a part production requirements.
A 30-tool storage magazine, a compact chip conveyor, and mist collector with smoke filter will allow continuous part machining.