3-D printing takes on a new dimension at IMTS

Additive Manufacturing pavilion takes the spotlight at 2016 event.


At the 2014 IMTS event in Chicago, a 3-D car was printed, assembled and driven during the show week. The use of additive technology in manufacturing will have its own pavilion at the 2016 IMTS in Chicago Sept. 12-17. Image Courtesy: IMTSTo enter the North Building at Chicago's McCormick Place, visitors to the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) must exit the Grand Concourse and pass through the new Additive Manufacturing Pavilion. Previously, the technology has been featured in the Association for Manufacturing Technology's (AMT) Emerging Technology Center as a cutting-edge technology and then added to the Fabricating and Laser Pavilion. For IMTS 2016, additive manufacturing technology has earned a stand-alone spotlight at the show, which runs Sept. 12-17, 2016.

"Additive manufacturing is a reality for the industrial marketplace. It's not fully mature, but the technology has progressed far enough that if you're ignoring 3-D printing at IMTS 2016, you're making a big mistake," said David Burns, founder and principal of Global Business Advisory Services LLC. "Fortunately, within the IMTS Additive Manufacturing Pavilion, you'll find companies that offer a full suite of 3-D products, and they're good at explaining the benefits."

Burns understands industrial manufacturing. IMTS 2016 will mark Burns' 16th show. Before becoming an advisor to industrial companies, Burns co-founded and was President and COO of ExOne, a leading provider of 3-D printing machines, products and related services. Prior to ExOne, Burns was CEO for gear manufacturer Gleason Corp. Burns says that technology advancements occur so rapidly that staying on top of new developments requires constant work. As it applies to 3-D printing, developments include new metallurgies, new machines and a suite of design tools. "Designing for 3-D printing requires a completely different approach, as does integrating the power of 3-D printing into your industrial manufacturing operation," said Burns.

Taking off the weight

As an example, Burns cites a redesign to an aerospace part where 3-D printing reduced the weight from 7 to 2 lbs and offered better mechanical properties. Saving 5 lb/part over several parts adds up to serious fuel savings when you consider that American Airlines claims it will save $1.2 million in fuel per year by switching from 35-pound paper manuals to a 1.5-pound iPad.

In another example, 3-D printing enables the integration of conformal cooling channels in the tooling for injection-molded parts. The new design reduces cycle time, reduces reject rates associated with warping and offers a claimed productivity rate increase of 20% to 70% across several applications. In addition, 3-D printing enabled a design team to combine 18 parts into one single component that was 25% lighter and, more importantly, eliminated maintenance issues.

"If you're just trying to emulate an existing design, you need to expand your thinking to fully harness the power of 3-D printing," said Burns. "Savings and productivity improvements are going to come from ways you have yet to imagine."

Adding the pavilion

"Additive manufacturing is incredibly dynamic, and to see new materials, new design ideas and new production techniques, you need to attend IMTS 2016," said Peter Eelman, vice president, exhibitions and communications for AMT. Eelman noted the term "additive manufacturing" encompasses many diverse technologies including material providers, 3-D printers and associated equipment, such as sintering furnaces, design and production software, scanners that capture points to create a parametric design and 3-D-printing service centers.

"The Additive Manufacturing Pavilion showcases essentially every component necessary for a manufacturing cell," Eelman said. "In addition, the technology has progressed so far that you'll also see it on the show floor. Several of the leading machine-tool providers will demonstrate 'hybrid machines' that integrate 3-D printing and traditional machine-tool capabilities."

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