Although it is not an ASTM-recognized category for AM processes, hybrid manufacturing is most closely linked to directed energy deposition (DED) technologies. However, DED is not the only AM process that can be hybridized. Since around 2013, several other companies have developed hybrid manufacturing systems which combine a variety of AM methods with CNC milling (and other tools), often resulting in faster, larger and more complex parts.
If we take a further step back – with some help from hybrid manufacturing experts 3D-Hybrid (more about this company further down) – hybrid manufacturing made its first commercial appearances in the early2000s via Laser-Powder Deposition in a CNC Machine. Some cases used a robot in a separate cell of the CNC machine with a pallet pool change mechanism. Hybrid Manufacturing didn’t quite catch on at that time. Lasers were still large capital expenditures and were typically produced for small spot sizes (i.e. cutting and engraving applications).
With the onset of the metal, 3D printing or additive manufacturing growth in the 2010s, hybrid manufacturing made a resurgence. At this time the cost of lasers had dropped to around $100,000 for a couple of kilowatts, making it possible to couple with a large CNC machine tool purchase. Also at this time, the metal powder bed machines were being delivered for $800,000 to $1,500,000 making hybrid manufacturing an ideal alternative, especially for larger parts.
Hybrid Manufacturing is now a common, industry-recognized term for combined additive and subtractive manufacturing. Since 2013, the number of machine tool builders offering hybrid manufacturing has gone from zero to double digits.
Today we kick off our next AM Focus on Hybrid Manufacturing by highlighting ten hybrid manufacturing companies that are pushing the industry forward. The list is destined to grow. If you run or work with a hybrid manufacturing company that you think should be included, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Already a leader in the machine tool industry, you could say that DMG Mori is also the leader in this segment and thus the company to begin our list of hybrid manufacturing companies. The company introduced the LASERTEC 65 3D Hybrid system which leverages the Siemens NX: Complete Hybrid CAD / CAM – Module for additive and subtractive programming. The DMG Mori system uses a laser head handled by a fully automatic shuttle – without manual intervention, for 5-axis material deposition by a coaxial nozzle, resulting in homogeneous powder distribution, independent from direction of laser deposition welding. This is combined with a full 5-axis milling machine and run through process monitoring and adaptive process-control (Closed Loop). DMG Mori’s CELOS software also enables continuous measuring and monitoring of the laser buildup process as well as automatic regulation of the laser power in real-time for homogeneous part qualities. This machine, coming in at over $1-1.5 million, can build metal parts in cylindrical space with a diameter of 650 mm (base), weighing up to 600 Kg.
Mazak‘s INTEGREX i-400 AM is one of the largest hybrid manufacturing systems available on the market. As a fusion of additive technology and advanced multi-tasking capabilities, the INTEGREX i-400 is the machine that represents the companies bet on innovative alternative solutions to conventional processing in terms of part design and machining. The machine was developed specifically for small lot production of very difficult-to-cut materials and uses its additive capability to easily generate near-net-shape component features and then completes them via high-precision finish machining operations. If necessary, the machine will also laser mark parts. The machine – which brings Mazak in our list of the hybrid manufacturing companies – melts the metal powder using fiber laser heat. Cladding heads, or additive manufacturing nozzles, apply the molten material layer by layer, each of which solidifies as the desired shape grows. It can also join different types of metals together, which allows for the efficient repair of existing worn or damaged components such as aerospace turbine blades. In terms of its Multi-Tasking capabilities, the INTEGREX i-400 AM provides full 5-axis machining to process prismatic parts from solid billets or castings (chuck or bar fed), round parts, highly contoured parts and now those with features built using additive technology.
Hermle is another well-known leader of the subtractive machine tools industry. The thermal injection technique that Hermle has been establishing over more than 10 years opens up new dimensions in the field of additive and hybrid manufacturing. It unites the ideas of additive production and better milling. Through a combination of material augmentation and metal cutting in a single machine, Hermle creates possibilities for manufacturing even large-sized metal components. The MPA material application unit is integrated into a Hermle 5-axis machining center of type C-40. The combination of MPA material application and milling in just one machine results in a hybrid additive manufacturing process which allows for part dimensions exceeding 500 mm in diameter.
MPA technology is generally designed to grow material on geometrically accessible planes of a component. If additional materials are to be integrated or embedded, the materials are applied in layers as far as the relevant contours of the other material components are accessible for machining. The contour accuracy of the components depends on the milling method and can be adapted to individual requirements. A special filling material allows for the creation of inner hollow areas, channels and undercut contours. This material is water soluble and flushed out at the end of the manufacturing process to expose the inner geometry. Subsequent heat treatment optimizes the component’s microstructure and ensures the component has the desired hardness.
Although it is not a hardware producer, Siemens figures in our hybrid manufacturing companies list for all the work that the company has been doing – at a software level – to advance the hybrid manufacturing process. Because most hybrid manufacturing systems leverage DED technologies, software becomes of fundamental importance to enable and optimize part geometry, thus accelerating the additive and subtractive combination.
The Siemens NX: Complete Hybrid CAD / CAM – Module for additive and subtractive programming is a single software package for the complete process chain (design, additive process, subtractive machining, finishing). It is used in several additive, subtractive and hybrid machines to prepare the complete manufacturing process using a digital twin of the workpiece, fixtures, and entire machine. The system calculates laser paths for additive manufacturing and cutting toolpaths for subtractive machining.
The NX Hybrid Additive Manufacturing software offers capabilities for hybrid additive manufacturing in a fully integrated designthrough- CNC programming solution, including postprocessing and machining simulation for integrated laser powder cladding and milling.
Japanese company Matsuura was the very first company to implement a subtractive process combined with an additive powder bed fusion (SLM) process. Matsuura is a recognized market leader in the field of automated multi-pallet, multi-axis and multi-tasking CNC machine tools and their associated manufacturing process solutions.
For over a decade Matsuura has been developing the LUMEX Avance-25 – the world’s first 3D Printing, Metal Laser Sintering Milling Hybrid CNC machine tool – a truly innovative platform in Net Shape Form and Additive Manufacturing – with the integration of a proven Matsuura high-speed milling spindle for subtractive machining processes. The ability to “grow” a metal component in layers with complex internal features, and to mill those internal features as the layers are added to give a perfect surface finish, makes the LUMEX Avance -25 a distinctive and remarkable production machine tool – offering designers and manufacturers a route to designing what they can imagine, and not be limited by the restrictions of their current production methods, strategies and machines.
The LUMEX Avance-60 is the second machine in the series, offering end users the same unlimited hybrid production possibilities of the LUMEX Avance-25 though with a much larger internal capacity and working envelope.
In this list of the hybrid manufacturing companies, 3D-Hybrid is the only hybrid manufacturing tool integrator offering multiple metal deposition technologies for virtually any CNC machine. Founded as a metal hybrid manufacturing service supplier, 3D Hybrid’s goal is to apply advanced metal additive manufacturing (AM) technology to ground-breaking applications. The company now offers three unique metal AM tools for CNC machines. Utilizing three methods of directed energy; electrical, optical and kinetic, these tools can handle almost any metal AM application and alloy.
The most common deposition technology used today is laser-based: 3D Hybrid offers the widest range of customization options to laser systems integrated for CNC machines, robots or any motion system. These robust processing head designs are also built to order depending on a review of a specific application. Another rapidly growing approach for metal additive deposition is ARC welding. ARC technology enables printing of the widest variety of feed-stock alloys. Integral to the ARC Tool’s success is the process of monitoring and control mechanisms. 3D Hybrid’s patent-pending ARC tools are built upon a sophisticated electrical discharge technology that is enhanced for a long duration, controlled additive manufacturing processes in a CNC machine. The last emerging high-speed process for metal deposition is Cold Spray: this was a process originally developed for shaft coating applications, but also lends itself to reliable additive manufacturing techniques. The process uses solid powders that are accelerated in gas to supersonic speeds around 1600-3500 feet/second. Upon impact with the substrate particles plastically deform and combine with the substrate as the tool is moved about the surface. Cold Spray printing rates are typically around 5 lbs/hr and supported alloys include Copper, Nickel, Aluminum, Titanium, Niobium, Metal Matrix Composites and Tantalum. 3D-Hybrid’s tool Cold Spray was designed for high speed and harder alloy deposition needs.
Fabrisonic‘s ultrasound additive manufacturing technology is entirely unique in that it could be described as a hybrid subtractive-additive-subtractive (lamination-ultrasound-finishing) process.
We have interviewed Fabrisonic to learn more about their amazing technology and you can read our full interview here. The company’s unique process leverages ultrasonic welding, a technology first developed in the 1950’s. UAM combines the advantages of additive and subtractive fabrication approaches [read more about the Fabrisonic UAM technology here]. The machine builds, additively, layer by layer. However, those layers are thin foils about 150 microns thick. They are welded down by basically laying a sheet or a piece of tape down and rolling the ultrasonic welding system over it. This is an acoustically tuned welding device that rolls in one direction. As it rolls, it vibrates perpendicular to the plane, it generates a scrubbing motion. The vibrations of the two 20,000 hertz ultrasonic transducers are transmitted to the disk-shaped welding sonotrode, which in turn creates an ultrasonic solid-state weld between the thin metal tape and the substrate. The continuous rolling of the sonotrode over the plate welds the entire tape to the plate. Successive layers are welded together to build up height. This process is then repeated.
Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies
Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies was founded in 2012 by Dr. Jason Jones and Peter Coates as a spin-off from a collaborative research and development project. It’s laser sharp focus on this segment of manufacturing, that brings it in our list of top hybrid manufacturing companies, is highlighted in the AMBIT series of additive tools.
The company’s new AMBIT Series 7 multi-task system for hybrid manufacturing enables automatic changeover from adding metal to cutting and inspecting, thus enabling the freedom of additive with the precision and accuracy of machining. The Series 7 system provides seamless integration of seven production technologies in a single solution. The synergy of combining these processes opens new opportunities for the production of metal parts and overrules the previously impossible and impractical. Featuring the latest patented AMBIT laser-based directed energy deposition heads, it can deposit metal from 0.5 to 3mm+ bead width with increased kilowatt (kW) laser capacity and 30% reduction in head length and mass.
The backbone of the new Series 7 system is the universal docking station complete with built-in thermal and optical process monitoring and control for assured quality during deposition. For the first time, post-deposition quality can be verified in situ using the AMBIT™ tool changeable eddy current inspection head, optimized for detecting surface and subsurface cracks and voids several layers deep with a range of probes using frequencies up to 5MHz. With the release of the AMBIT™ Series 7 multi-task system, Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies has taken another major stride integrating additive with mainstream manufacturing technologies.
As one of the very first manufacturers of additive DED systems, using its own proprietary LENS technology, Optomec has now broken new ground by recently beginning to offer a series of hybrid systems priced below $250,000. The company has made the top ten hybrid manufacturing companies list by introducing the new Optomec LENS 860 Hybrid CA system.
This hybrid, LENS-based metal 3D printer has an 860 x 600 x 610mm work envelope. It is equipped with a hermetically-sealed build chamber for processing reactive metals, such as Titanium. The system can be configured with closed-loop controls and a high-power 3kW fiber laser, making it ideal for building, repairing or coating mid to large size parts with superior metal quality. In addition to the LENS 860 Hybrid CA model, three more configurations are available. One key advantage of the LENS Hybrid configuration is the ability to use the milling capability to perform finish machining on a printed part without re-fixturing or aligning the component on a second machine.
Although Japanese company Sodick entered the market only recently, in 2017, its offer is arguably one of the most impressive on the hybrid manufacturing market today, thus entering our list of the top ten hybrid manufacturing companies. Sodick offers the first alternative to Matsuura’s hybrid-SLM process (giving Japan an interesting leadership in this manufacturing approach), focusing on the ability to produce advanced molds for injection molding with integrated cooling channels. Its Linear Motor Drive Precision Metal 3D Printers OPM250L and OPM 350L are precision metal 3D printers capable of producing one-piece metal molds, fundamentally changing how molds for plastic products are created. By performing selective laser melting and high-speed milling within the same machine, the OPM series products permit machining of complex molds with a degree of freedom and high-precision finishing that is impossible with conventional cutting tools. With enhanced productivity, reduced lead times, and substantial cost reduction for molded products, the system achieves levels of performance not possible on conventional production systems.
The OPM Series performs continuous laser machining and high-speed milling in a single machine: a uniform layer of metal powder is melted and solidified through direct metal laser sintering/melting. This is then precision machined by high-speed milling to create a high-quality shape not attainable through additive manufacturing alone. Sodick achieves metal 3D printing through the use of a 500W fiber laser for the melting and solidifying metal powder. The OPM Series features a 45000 min-1 spindle that achieves high-speed and high-precision machining with Sodick’s non-contact rigid linear motor drives. An automatic tool changer (ATC) and automatic tool length measuring device are installed to allow continuous automated operation over a long period of time.
- This article has been updated on March 5th to reflect that fact that Sodick is a Japanese company instead of a German company as initially written.