3D Systems’ Figure 4 Production System turned a lot of heads in its showcasing at last month’s RAPID + TCT show. The Figure 4 is the world’s first-ever scalable, full-integrated 3D printing system with lighting-fast speed that enables up to 15 times faster throughput and reduces part costs up to 20 times that of the traditional costs. Perhaps the biggest eye it caught was that of the United States Air Force who selected the Figure 4 for sponsored research which will center around high speed 3D printing applications for the supply chain in aeronautical maintenance. The research initiative is headed by the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) and sponsored by America Makes.
The Air Force will now look to see how they can use 3D Systems’ Figure 4 Production System to produce replacement parts for old aircraft – many of which can be extremely hard, if not impossible to find replacement parts due to a lack of part volume. If the Air Force is able to accomplish their goal through this Research and Development initiative, the need to warehouse parts could potentially be removed and they could greatly reduce the amount of time these aging aircraft are out of commission.3D Systems received this award which was made possible thanks to the establishment of a recent multi-year Air Force program titled “Maturation of Advanced Manufacturing for Low-cost Sustainment” (MAMLS), which is now entering Phase 3. However, this doesn’t mark the first time 3D Systems has been involved in the program as the Air Force recently utilized their SLA and Metal 3D printing systems in previous phases. According to 3D Systems President and CEO, Vyomesh Joshi
“At Rapid+TCT, 3D Systems continues to deliver on its promise to ‘Make 3D Production Real.’ We are showcasing key print technologies and supporting materials, giving designers and manufacturers a migration path from entry level additive manufacturing solutions to full, automated configurations that support Industry 4.0,” said Joshi. “This is only made possible by the decades of accumulated expertise our engineers and scientists bring to the industry. It is through their knowledge and passion that 3D Systems is helping organizations redefine their design, manufacturing and supply chain models.”
The Figure 4 Production System delivers users incredible speed and accuracy compared to traditional 3D printers, one of the main reasons it was selected for this reward by the U.S. Air Force. With print speeds capable of reaching 65 mm/h and prototyping speeds nearing 100 mm/h, the Figure 4 has displayed incredible performance and shows great potential. Other factors for its selection include the very high accuracy and repeatability that the system delivers.
“We were pleased with the speed, resolution, surface finish, and scalability that we achieved utilizing 3D Systems’ solution,” said Dr. Tim Osborn, Research Scientist: Additive Manufacturing, Multiscale Composites and Polymer Division, University of Dayton Research Institute. “Our goal is to further explore this technology and establish a clear development, vetting, and transition pathway for the emerging DLP technology in the Figure 4 machine for transition to the U.S. Air Force.”
Many aging aircraft that the Air Force uses on a daily basis require replacements parts that are no longer manufactured. Re-creating these parts using traditional processes can be an extremely costly and challenging. With 3D printing, however, they can easily reproduce these parts in a much less expensive and extremely more accurate & efficient fashion.
“Additive manufacturing is the perfect lean solution because it avoids the need for time-consuming and costly tooling,” said 3D Systems Co-Founder and CTO Chuck Hull. “We are pleased to support the Air Force in its effort to reduce production costs and delivery times through Figure 4, our novel additive manufacturing technology. We look forward to our continued collaboration with UDRI and other partners – helping expand their arsenal of Figure 4 applications.”