Additive Manufacturing with Laser Winding
The growing popularity of Additive Manufacturing can be explained for the following reasons: it provides a lot of flexibility and speed, while saving material and energy. Of course not every method in the additive manufacturing has the same advantages yet it is an important contributor to the so called ‘fast prototyping’. Complex products can be produced with for instance a 3D printer in a small number of steps and in a short time frame.
The concept of Additive Manufacturing is a turnaround in the approach we are all used to: machining of a large piece and remove material to end up with the projected shape. Additive Manufacturing is the other way around: add material where required to end up with the projected shape. That means generally a lower material and energy consumption. On top of that, the approach can save you throughput time and allows to operate remotely, provided you have the right equipment and raw material available.
Hinge Bracket (Credit image to 9T Labs)
Laser Assisted Tape Winding
Alformet is applying the so called laser assisted tape winding (LATW) technology to produce the CFR Thermoplastic tubes. The input for this process is the UD-tape, combination of endless fibers in a thermoplastic matrix, that provides you with the properties and behavior based on your selection. Once the design of tube and the material selection have been processed in our design tool, a CNC program will be generated and made available for the equipment, wherever the location of the equipment in the world. After that it is a matter of pushing the button to start the production.
Important aspect in the application of Additive Manufacturing is to optimize the design of the product for its purpose. It is all about the function, no more no less. In the traditional approach you would leave material to save machining time at the expense of material. In the Additive Manufacturing, you will focus on material and save production time by not adding material at places where it is not required. That matches the objective to reduce material and energy consumption in line with the principles of the Circular Economy.
For more information about the LATW process, see the blog LATW
Reviewing cost elements and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
Additive Manufacturing is for most people the same as 3D printing and relate that to a low productivity. The LATW process in Alformet has a high productivity and an efficient process flow.
Your next question is to understand the manufacturing costs of our process and without giving a specific answer to that, it is essential to consider the whole concept. The optimized design will allow you to benefit from more than material saving only: also energy consumption of your product (mass/inertia benefit), maintenance costs and life cycle will improve. Those cost reductions should be part of your cost comparison! At the same time, multiple examples of applications exist with CFR Thermoplastic tubes being beneficial over the original metal versions, where even more value is added through reduced maintenance costs and longer service life. Better for the bottom line and with happier customers!
Welcome to the world of Additive Manufacturing!
Written by Theo Mimpen (April 2021)