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Additive Manufacturing and Industrial Tooling (Part 2)

In my previous article I had raised the point of how Additive Manufacturing can help speed up conventional manufacturing through conformal cooling of tools. The marriage of AM technology to manufacture certain tools helps in bringing down the cost of the tool. It also improves productivity of the tool as well as ensures that the final products exhibit a considerable lesser amount of rejection during quality check.

Another major advantage of AM is the ability to reduce the weight of the component significantly without compromising on the functional parameters. Take for instance a pump discharge nozzle of an air or a fluid pump. The wall of the discharge nozzle is usually designed to be robust and sturdy to ensure durability since it is the first exit point of searing gas or fluid. The fluid needs to flow through considerable pathway before it is cool enough to be released into atmosphere. Simple day to examples would be – exhaust pipe of a vehicle or an exhaust pipe of an industrial chimney.

The below diagrams show an example of how an exhaust nozzle could be redesigned to bring in efficient and almost instant cooling without compromising on the functional parameters. It is imperative that I mention that there is a significant amount of domain knowledge that is required before one attempts to re-design an industrial component. Even more so, if the component is used in a highly sensitive area that could potentially put someone in a harms way.

article-5bThe first image shows a solid component that has been manufactured using conventional means. The nozzle has approximately 8mm wall. It has a small inlet value and a larger outlet nozzle to reduce the pressure. The nozzle would then direct the gas to flow through several feet of conduits, thereby helping it to cool, before being released in the open.

article-5cThe second diagram shows a re-designed nozzle. The 8mm wall remains to ensure there is no change in the design that would hamper the fitment of this component later on. But the magic is that the 8mm wall is a combination of 2mm solid + 4mm lattice + 2mm solid. That is, there is a 4mm layer of lattice structure that is sandwiched between two solid walls. For this article the surface of the component has been sliced open in a diamond shape to show the lattice structure that is beneath the 2mm wall.

The benefits were immense. The weight of the component decreased by 45% without compromising on any of its original industrial grade strength. Secondly, the inbuilt lattice structure brought down the temperature of the exhaust gas resulting in far lesser amount of conduit pipes. These were just in-house experiments. But the same can be applied to jigs and fixtures that undergo enormous temperature changes during manufacture. Many a time these fixtures rupture because of frequent swing in temperatures. This can be brought down if the fixture has a built in cooling system – like a sandwiched lattice structure.

A thorough look at re-designing some of the industrial components can bring out a significant revolution in redesign of the entire tooling and machining industry itself. As mentioned before AM, may not be the best suitable technology for mass manufacturing – but it can surely help conventional manufacturing do things in a more efficient manner.

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