The process and benefits of Hybrid 3D Printing Milling Machines

Metal additive 3D printing is a rather new process only dating to the mid-2010s. CNC removes the material, but 3D Printing (additive manufacturing), builds by adding layers. The AM process, as it is commonly referred to, tends to result in less than ideal output from the Industrial 3D printer in certain applications. With the emergence of Hybrid Manufacturing in 2012, the additive process was coupled with the CNC machinery. As such, the Hybrid 3D Printer has produced components which, not only have superior surface finishes, but also produce results which are more precise. Considering the Milling process which is subtractive, one may wonder how this pertains to the 3D Printing Milling machines. The answer is that technology pairs with technology, and although the subtractive takes away and the additive builds up layers, the fundamental idea of coupling the SM or AM is the same.

The Milling Process

The Hybrid Milling process develops the model by drilling or milling into the metal that is on the machine. It is a bit like sculpting, where the artist sees the finished part in the rock or marble, and chisels it away. The milling cuts the metal rather than adding to it. Much like the subtraction method, there is no materials added. However, unlike the subtractive method, the Hybrid Milling process rotates the piece on various axis to obtain greater precision. Typically, the subtraction method is greatly limited due to the limited rotation available on the Milling Machine for cutting. The difference between Additive and the Hybrid Milling process would, thereby, be comparable to the clay artist that adds to the armature to complete the result. Where one builds by adding the other builds by subtraction, but in the end, both produce complex results.

What are the benefits of the 3D Milling Machine?

Historically speaking, the traditional Computer Numeric Control machines have a drawback of being wasteful. The benefits, however, are that the CNC machining is repeatable, precise, and has high productivity. Additive Manufacturing is traditionally a lengthy process containing Long Cycle-times and may have poor surface finishes. With the Hybrid 3D Printing Milling Machines, you get the best of both options. Specifically, when considering the Hybrid 3D Milling process, one will see that the advantage is that you get the precision both of the AM and CNC in the Hybrid with less waste and quicker manufacturing times. Of course, you do not have to be present during the fabrication process if you have a Raspberry Pi with Octoprint and a Camera which would allow you to view the process remotely. Additionally, if you have multiple CNC Milling Machines in place then your production will go faster. This too can be controlled and monitored from your Octoprint Kit.

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Picture provided by cloudinary.

Why use a Hybrid 3D Milling Machine?

One of the primary benefits of the Hybrid 3D Printer is that you get the best of the AM and the SM process. The reason why someone would choose to use such a printer is to minimize the risk of minute, but catastrophic, mishaps in the additive printing process. For example: In the hybrid milling process, gears can be repetitiously made with little to no risk of offset. This means that if you have mass production and need to ensure that none of the components fail due to being off 0.3969mm, that you are more prone to have success with the milling process than the AM processes.

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A simple part like this which has 3.175mm teeth and 12.7000mm and 6.3500mm drill holes, as well as fillets, could be an issue in a standard Additive manufacturing 3D Commercial Printer when it comes to accuracy. Hybrid 3D Milling machines could produce this with ease. 3D part designed by Siclari Studios.

The benefits are in the details

When you consider the AM process, the main benifit is that you have the ability to create complex geometric shapes. SM processes can do this in part, depending upon the number of axis which are available on the machine. 5 axis printing is the more complex of the milling machines. Hybrid machines tend to have at least 5 axis allowing for 360 degree rotations of the material to create details which even the traditional additive manufacturing would have difficulty in fabricating.

Cost of production benefits

While the Milling process may be scrutinized for being wasteful, that being that the process involves cutting away rather than building up the model with exact resources, it could be argued that the Hybrid 3D Industrial Printers are more productive and cost efficient in the long run. For one, the accuracy lowers the probability of reprints, thus lowering the overhead cost of manufacturing and production. Secondly, the milling process allows for the products to be created with little to no supervision of the alignment of the build. Those concerned with such can monitor the progress of the print with an Octoprint Kit. Third, even though the process is subtractive and creates metallic waste, companies can recycle the waste without compromising the integrity of the metallic properties.

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