For many years, engineers have been fascinated with, and have come to rely on, the ability to create parts directly from CAD models for the purpose of visualizing design concepts or verify functionality. Stereolithography has served this need quite well for developing appearance models and prototypes. However, since these parts are generally fabricated from resins, it limits their utility and the engineer’s ability to determine material properties or performance of a design. To overcome this, engineers are developing new technologies for additive manufacturing (AM), which produces parts directly from high performance alloys.
EWI has played an important role in this field with the development of a new Ultrasonic Additive Manufacturing (UAM) platform. This technology relies on the transmission of very high power acoustical vibrations to a material to create a solid state bond with an adjacent layer. Since the weld occurs with very low heat input, it is possible to make welds that typically are not possible between dissimilar metals. In addition, UAM is an environmentally-friendly manufacturing process. The value of this capability was recently demonstrated in a small project for the State of Ohio’s Governor’s Cabinet.
Many Government officials use lapel pins for identification. Lapel pins are traditionally procured through a mail order catalog in which a design is supplied to a manufacturer that is usually in China relying on low cost labor and lax environmental standards. EWI wanted to show that it is possible to make this type of product in the U.S. using a “green” technology. To do this, EWI developed a CAD model of the Governor’s Cabinet logo and exported it directly to the additive manufacturing system. Instead of painted features which may involve toxic chemicals, we used three metals with different inherent colors to provide a distinctive facet: welding aluminum, copper, and titanium together, then machining to the appropriate surface to make the unique colors stand out. Standard pins were then bonded to the built up structure using ultrasonic soldering which eliminates the use of lead and the need for flux, omitting concerns with hazardous materials and their removal.
EWI was honored to present these pins at a Cabinet meeting last month, showcasing the competitive manufacturing potential of this technology. If you would like to learn more about UAM or other ultrasonic processes, please contact me at [email protected] or 614.688.5137.