Spain-based Ibarmia has partnered with researchers to create a very intriguing hybrid metal manufacturing machine.
Developed by machine-tool company Ibarmia, University of the Basque Country and the Tecnalia research center, the “ADD+PROCESS” machine definitely lives up to its name, as it includes not only a means to 3D print metal (“ADD”), but also a way to mill its surface after deposition (“PROCESS”).
We’ve seen such devices previously, but this one apparently is designed to produce massive parts, up to 1.6m in length. They say it’s “capable of manufacturing large-sized prototypes”.
Here’s how it works: metal material is gradually deposited by a robot arm in an additive manner. Gradually a complete, solid metal object is printed. Once the object is printed, a milling process begins, which shaves and polishes the surfaces of the additively-constructed metal part.
This process may appear complex, but in fact there’s several interesting advantages to this approach:
- Conventional milling processes would require much more raw material, depending on the object’s geometry. Additive approaches significantly minimize material requirements.
- Metal printing can be done very crudely at relatively high speed, because the surface will be finished more efficiently with the mill later on. Other metal 3D printers attempt to produce a fine surface directly, but would take a long time to do so as they would have to print numerous layers. The ADD+PROCESS doesn’t have to do that.
- The printing and the milling are integrated into one system that can understand the geometry and location of the object; Theoretically you could just print a metal object and move it to a separate mill, but it could be challenging to get things lined up accurately for the mill to match the object.
Imbaria produces a number of large-scale manufacturing machines and offers services as well. We suspect the ADD+PROCESS machine could be offered as a service to clients who wish to give it a try. They may find both speed and cost advantages over other approaches.
Via Eureka Alert