Hybrid Machining – Made in Taiwan

Optomec partners with Tongtai on additive manufacturing.

(Image courtesy of Optomec/Tongtai.)

(Image courtesy of Optomec/Tongtai.)

One sure sign of a technology’s maturity is when it starts to spread beyond the largest players in a given industry.

Additive manufacturing began as a niche technology under the label of 3D printing, but in the last few years the technology has been adopted by machine tool giants like DMG MORI and Mazak. These companies aren’t producing dedicated 3D printers—at least, not yet—rather, they are integrating this technology with what they’re best at: subtractive manufacturing, a.k.a., traditional machining.

The resulting hybrid machine tools combine the flexibility and unique geometries of 3D printing with the speed and precision that comes from CNC machining. It’s a safe bet that the number of available hybrid machines will continue to increase as they proliferate on factory floors.

The latest example comes in the form of a joint venture between Optomec, a supplier of additive manufacturing systems, and Tongtai Machine & Tool Company, one of the largest machine tool suppliers in Taiwan. The agreement enables Tongtai to integrate the Optomec LENS Print Engine, which  adds 3D metal printing capability to its AMH-350 (Additive Manufacturing-Hybrid) vertical 5-axis milling machine.

Inside the AMH-350

The Optomec LENS family of 3D metal printers has already been in use for more than two decades for repairing, reworking and manufacturing metal components in materials such as titanium, stainless steel, carbides and nickel-based super alloys.

The LENS Print Engine packages Optomec 3D metal printing technology in a modular format for integration with metalworking platforms such as CNC mills, lathes, robots, custom gantries or laser cutting and welding systems.

(Image courtesy of Tongtai.)

(Image courtesy of Tongtai.)

Components of the LENS Print Engine include Optomec’s proprietary SteadyFlow powder feeders, LENS deposition head with SmartAM closed loop process control, fiber laser and tool path generation software.

“Partnering with one of Taiwan’s largest machine tool companies is a major milestone for Optomec in our efforts to expand the benefits of additive manufacturing,” said Dave Ramahi, president and CEO of Optomec. “The new Tongtai hybrid additive manufacturing machine will lower costs to accelerate industrial adoption of metal additive manufacturing in Asia.”

“The brand recognition for LENS, along with Optomec’s successful track record in metal additive manufacturing, were key factors in our decision to integrate the LENS Print Engine into our machines,” said Chairman Yen Jui-Hsiung of Tongtai. “Our partnership with Optomec will enable our customers to cost-effectively integrate this functionality into their manufacturing processes.”

Tongtai will demonstrate this new hybrid additive manufacturing machine at the TIMTOS show in Taiwan, March 7-12.