Does WAAM Offer a Better Approach to Additive Manufacturing?
Ian Wright posted on February 03, 2017 |
Exploring the benefits of wire arc technology and hybrid machining.
(Image courtesy of WAAM.)
(Image courtesy of WAAM.)
Hybrid machining centers are all the rage these days, combining the flexibility of 5-axis CNC machining with the unique capabilities offered by 3D printing. Many industrial-grade additive manufacturing machines utilize metal powders, but there’s another additive technology that’s been getting more attention.

Wire arc additive manufacturing (WAAM) uses an electric arc as a heat source and wire—rather than powder—as feedstock. One of the advantages of WAAM technology is that it can be implemented using off-the-shelf welding equipment, which makes it an appealing option for job shops that don’t want to invest in an expensive powder bed system.

Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing

Peter Gratschmayr, senior sales engineers at Midwest Engineered Systems, offered some insights into WAAM at last year’s IMTS.

“This really doesn’t compete with other laser additive manufacturing technologies,” he said, “because those are meant for a higher definition, smaller component. It ends up costing somewhere between 12 and 25 dollars an ounce for the powder to be able to make the part, because there’s usually a 20 percent scrap rate that comes out of it, so not all the powder gets used.”

(Image courtesy of Manufatura Aditiva.)
(Image courtesy of Manufatura Aditiva.)
“The other thing to keep in mind is that we’re putting down material at 15 to 20 times the weight of powder,” Gratschmayr continued. “This particular cell [in the KUKA booth at IMTS] is doing a two-foot-by-two-foot cube and this as small as we’d ever want to build it. But we can make parts that are up to 42 meters long by six meters wide, two meters high and keep it at repeatability somewhere around 30 to 30 thousandths.”

WAAM is also useful for maintenance and repair operations, as Gratschmayr explained:

“Let’s say you’ve got wear characteristics on a component. We can rebuild that up. We can take an existing part that ends up being broken and use software to scan it and then build the product back to nominal.”


Mazak Hybrid Machining Center Opts for Wire

(Image courtesy of Mazak.)
(Image courtesy of Mazak.)
One of the newest members of Mazak’s additive machine family, the VARIAXIS j-600AM vertical machining center utilizes a wire arc-type metal deposition system.

The machine’s Wire Arc system incorporates a standard wire arc-welding head mounted on the headstock to deposit material layer by layer and grow near-net-shape 3D forms. It also features a 12,000-rpm B-axis tilt spindle and C-axis indexing table.

The VARIAXIS j-600AM is designed for a variety of applications, including the production and repair of aerospace parts, molds and dies and oil-drilling components, enabling these parts to retain their original durability and wear resistant properties.

For more information, visit the Mazak website.

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