VIDEO: Parts Consolidation and Additive Manufacturing
James Anderton posted on October 09, 2015 |

“Simplify and add lightness.” That famous quotation is attributed to legendary racing car designer Colin Chapman, who advocated lightweight parts consolidation as the root to auto racing victory. 

It’s still true today and for essentially all engineering disciplines as well. Metal additive manufacturing offers a new, higher performance technique for achieving Chapman’s and every engineer’s goals.

Mark Kirby, additive manufacturing business manager at Renishaw Canada, appeared at the Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show (CMTS) 2015 to display the technology of parts consolidation.

At his booth, Kirby presented a typical bolted flange joint consisting of 77 welded parts and with it, displayed its one-piece counterpart, additively manufactured with parts consolidation in mind. The original flange was weighed at 133g – more than twice the 53g weight of its consolidated twin.

In removing 76 individual parts, the consolidation process eliminated nearly as many failure modes.

But let’s take a step back. Shaving off a few pounds and possible failure modes is all swell, but such drastic changes must result in a difference in field performance. What are the chances of defects forming within the consolidated part during the manufacturing process? Would the materials be dense enough for their applications? Thorough testing is still required.

“Just as composites had tremendous promise, they also had problems,” Kirby told ENGINEERING.com.

“Everyone was very afraid of what would happen if there was damage underneath the skin of a composite. And yet, we fly on aircrafts built with composites every day now. There was enough promise for us to solve those problems and the same is true with additive manufacturing. There are no big enough barriers for us not to adopt the technology.”

When asked if he would fly on an aircraft designed and built with additive manufacturing technology, Kirby replied with a laugh. “Absolutely. I would fly and I would put my family on that craft tomorrow if we could. I like to think that these things will happen within our lifetimes.”

For more information on Renishaw’s approach to metal additive manufacturing, visit renishaw.com.

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