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Accelerate: Oct. 2013


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Turning the Lights On—Faster

Many municipalities have turned LED lights to illuminate their streets, in greener fashion. Despite the energy efficiency, the entry costs are high—in large part due to the complexity of the systems, not just the still-pricey light emitting diodes. 

For Lighting Science (lsgc.com), which makes the RoadMaster street light, inspecting parts from suppliers to fit specifications has been an arduous process. The Roadmaster fixtures are built around aluminum die castings that are 2-ft long by 1-ft wide. The complex geometry of the parts would take up to a week to inspect with a coordinate measuring machine (CMM)—or about four hours to inspect each part because of the large number of points that need to be touched one at a time to validate the 3D geometry, the company notes.

Lighting Science began using NVision’s (nvision3d.com) HandHeld laser scanner to ensure their supplier parts actually match the original designs, in much swifter fashion than conventional methods. 

“With the NVision HandHeld laser scanner we can, in about two hours, obtain the complete 3D geometry of a casting and compare it to the design intent to determine not only if the part meets the design intent but also whether it is trending in the correct direction,” said Richard Williams, manager of product quality assurance for Lighting Science.

The scanner is attached to a mechanical arm that moves around the object. The software allows full model editing, polygon reduction, and data output to all standard 3D packages. It takes an operator about an hour to scan the casting and generate a point cloud, with another hour to convert it to a surface model for comparison with a CAD model. Using NVision software, the scanned part can be compared with said design. 


The NVision scans a complex casting for an LED street lamp.


Printed Visions of 2040 

It’s 2040. Will your ride look closer to Tom Cruise’s in Minority Report or Sylvester Stallone’s in Death Race 2000? (We’re guessing the former, but you never know). 

One hundred fifty-one 3D printed models of cars, planes, spacecraft and other visions of transport in 2040 were submitted for the 3D Printer Challenge sponsored by MakerBot (makerbot.com) and GrabCAD (grabcad.com). GrabCAD is an online community consisting primarily of mechanical design engineers. All models were printed on a MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer, which, incidentally, was the prize given to the first place winner, while a MakerBot Replicator 1 Desktop 3D Printer was awarded to second prize. 

The winning design, “Alpha,” submitted by user “Omega” from Germany, depicts a flying spacecraft with vestiges from the previous century in the form of hot rod triple exhaust pipes and spoilers. 


MakerBot-generated model of “Alpha,” a vision of what transportation will be like in 2040. (It is a spacecraft, not a snail.)


America’s Dulling Edge in Additive Manufacturing 

According to the Wohlers Associates Inc. (wohlersassociates.com) report on advanced manufacturing around the globe, 38% of all industrial advanced manufacturing installations are in the U.S., 9.7% are in Japan, 9.4% in Germany and 8.7% in China. At first glance, the top line numbers might not seem ominous for American manufacturers, but take a closer look. Sixteen companies in Europe, seven in China, five in the U.S., and two in Japan now manufacture and sell professional-grade, industrial additive manufacturing systems. 

“This is a dramatic change from a decade ago, when the mix was ten in the U.S., seven in Europe, seven in Japan, and three in China,” said Tim Caffrey, a principal author of the new report and associate consultant at Wohlers Associates. 

Now in its 18th consecutive year, the Wohlers Report 2013 is an 18-month snapshot of the additive manufacturing sector including its applications, processes, manufacturers, and materials. It also looks into R&D and collaboration among in government, academia, and industry. 

If the U.S. is to preserve its competitive advantage in the AM industry, Wohlers representatives advocate the industry focus on developing metal-based powder bed fusion systems and other advanced system technologies. Last year, the Obama Administration launched the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, which includes the Department of Defense and a host of other agencies, to advance AM technology. But that’s a token effort compared with what the governments of China and other European countries have committed. 

“It will not be easy, given what organizations in China and other regions of the world have planned,” said Terry Wohlers, a principal author of the report and president of Wohlers Associates. 

Revenues from all additive manufacturing products and services worldwide reached $2.204-billion in 2012, up 28.6% from 2011, according to the report. An estimated 28.3% of that total relates to the production for final products, rather than models, prototypes, patterns, and other types of parts.