Additive manufacturing has become increasingly popular within the manufacturing community. Streamlined production of intricate parts, conservation of materials, and ease of use are all reasons for the attention these technologies are receiving.
Cold spray additive manufacturing (CSAM) is a metal AM process that can produce parts faster than many other 3D metal and polymer processes. Although heat treatment is recommended once the part is built, it is often unnecessary.
The automation team at EWI frequently uses polymer AM to fabricate tooling and end effectors for a variety of automation applications. They found that for their latest use case, a robot gripper for moving heavy metal components, polymer was inadequate. When they realized polymer was not up to the job, the automation team decided that a metal end effector produced by CSAM may be a viable alternative. The results were successful. Compared to another metal AM process (blown-powder laser DED), CSAM is faster and more amenable to aluminum alloys which find use, in this case, for their light weight and stiffness.
For comparison, the polymer 3D printed version of the gripper made on a material jetting 3D printer took around three hours to complete and, as noted, lacked the strength required for the application. The first CSAM metal print of the gripper took 25 minutes to produce a solid aluminum part that was strong enough to support the application. The table above depicts the cost and time savings of minimal part optimization, in this case light-weighting, the gripper. Note the increased time it takes to produce a similar part on a separate metal AM system, specifically a blown powder laser direct energy deposition system. Lastly, it should also be noted that light-weighting through subtractive means, machining, would take more time and generate more waste than optimization with CSAM.
This case demonstrated how CSAM can add value in parts production by reducing manufacturing time while simultaneously increasing strength of a component.
Questions about EWI’s work in cold spray technology? Contact Sam Bedard, Applications Engineer at [email protected] or 716.710.5555.