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IMTS McCormick Foyer
The Lobby at IMTS
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ExOne’s “Digital Part Materialization” process.
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The International Machine Tool Show takes place at the McCormick Place convention centre in Chicago every two years. Aside from this being the venue with, in my opinion, the best view in the world (see slideshow) it is an event that this year promised a much larger focus on additive manufacturing.
The Association For Manufacturing Technology (AMT), organisers of the bi-annual event, are keen to promote the growing importance of additive manufacturing and it took a central place in the Emerging Technology Center (ETC), an area dedicated to disruptive and developing technologies.
The ETC, located in the heart of the venue had displays from ExOne, 3D Systems, Objet and Renishaw. It certainly had a consistent flow of visitors throughout the day but I do wonder where EOS, Arcam, Stratasys, Sciaky and others were. The companies present were doing a great job of demonstrating the technology but if you only saw additive manufacturing for the first time at IMTS you'll leave with maybe just 40% of the picture.
It was nice to see UK innovators Renishaw waving the flag in the ETC with their additive manufacturing equipment. Of course they are a regular IMTS exhibitor with their metrology equipment, ExOne are also an IMTS regular and given the attendance demographic it's no surprise the metal AM players were taking it seriously.
ExOne have taken it so seriously they have made IMTS the launch pad for their new machine. The M-FLEX 3D Printing System – interesting that they have used the term "3D Printing", although they cover that by refering to themselves as an additive manufacturing company - was launched at the show.
ExOne's latest machine is primarily designed for manufacturing metal parts, for use in industries such as mining, automotive and energy. It is also capable of building in glass, tungsten and ceramics.
The M-FLEX’s productivity improvements and increased flexibility are housed in a increased build chamber of 400mm x 250mm x 250mm that can achieve build speeds of 30 seconds per layer – compared to previous build speeds of approximately 90 seconds. It offers a print resolution of 0.0635 mm (X/Y), 0.100 mm (Z).
It continues to use ExOne’s “Digital Part Materialization” process (See video for a refresher on the process). This process builds objects by treating a powdered material with a bonding agent from a print head. The object is then placed into a furnace for sintering, which burns out the binder and fuses the metal molecules into a solid part.
“We’ve made tremendous strides in 3D printing in the last decade and what our machines can do today is simply remarkable. We are printing engine castings for helicopters and replacing broken pumps in oil fields in days – not months,” said Dave Burns, President of ExOne. “The M-FLEX continues our leadership in developing the 3D printing technology that has made additive manufacturing the most compelling advanced technology used in industry today.”
The machine and furnace will require an investment in the region of $500,000 USD but you get a serious piece of kit, this isn't producing coloured plastic toys. If you want to take closer look at this technology on the UK side of the pond then ExOne will be at TCT Live on booth S14.