AXIOM: A New Method from HMT Combines Benefits of 3D Printing and Injection Molding
Andrew Wheeler posted on June 05, 2020 |
The AMBIT XTRUDE PE-1 3D printhead was fixed to a CNC milling machine in less than a day.
The AXIOM method from Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies is shown here. The AMBIT XTRUDE PE-1 3D printhead was fixed to a CNC milling machine to produce finished parts from polymers and composites that resembled finished injection molded parts. (Image courtesy of HMT.)
The AXIOM method from Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies is shown here. The AMBIT XTRUDE PE-1 3D printhead was fixed to a CNC milling machine to produce finished parts from polymers and composites that resembled finished injection molded parts. (Image courtesy of HMT.)

The comparison between additive and subtractive manufacturing is usually a shoulder-to-shoulder comparison, with one compared against the other. Additive manufacturing systems allow designers to take advantage of complicated geometry that would be expensive and difficult to manufacture with subtractive manufacturing. Subtractive manufacturing is generally more cost-effective if the geometry of an object can readily be produced by both systems, and especially in higher volumes. The material produced by subtractive manufacturing is generally stronger than additive manufacturing systems, due to the increased possibility of wayward layers causing issues as a 3D printer deposits material in a pancake fashion.

However, there are some hybrid systems that combine the two manufacturing systems, and Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies (HMT) produces one of them. HMT, which specializes in hybrid subtractive-additive systems, recently developed a method of thermoplastic production it calls “AXIOM,” which stands for automated extrusion into an open mold.

The AXIOM method combines the strengths of both manufacturing technologies into one siloed manufacturing system. The resulting parts have high material strength and are printed quickly like injection molding systems, but with certain benefits of additive manufacturing systems.

For example, when a product needs to be manufactured from a hundred components or more, injection molding is usually the most cost-effective route. HMT’s AXIOM method is an attempt to strike a balance between the two systems and to provide a higher degree of flexibility for manufacturers by creating a new printhead.  

The AMBIT XTRUDE PE-1 3D Printhead

HMT decided to attach its AMBIT XTRUDE PE-1 3D printhead to a CNC milling machine to extrude materials that are generally excluded from the option of 3D printing materials available to manufacturers. This resulted in materials with a better surface finish and without the layer lines typically generated by 3D printing, meaning the end results looked more like finished injection molded parts.

HMT used the AMBIT XTRUDE PE-1 3D printhead with a CNC milling machine to produce polymer parts that resembled finished injection molding parts at speeds comparable to injection molding speeds.

In less than 24 hours, HMT was able to transform a CNC milling machine into a 3D printer capable of extruding composites and polymers. Since then, HMT has integrated the AXIOM method into machines including parallel kinematic machine (PKM) platforms, robotic arms and CNC tooling rigs.

This could make the AMBIT PE-1 extruder a practical option for machine shops that are on the fence about incorporating additive manufacturing systems into their operations. Such a machine shop could theoretically produce a variety of parts in house, like fixtures and jigs.

Bottom Line

The AXIOM method of incorporating the AMBIT XTRUDE 3D printhead onto a CNC milling was created from an impetus to help reduce the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global supply chain, which resulted in a sharply increased demand of personal protective equipment (PPE) from medical facilities worldwide. HMT was just one of many manufacturing companies that produce additive and subtractive manufacturing systems to help produce medical goods such as face shields to boost the shortage of supplies caused by the pandemic.

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