Stratasys and ORNL Partner to Advance Additive Manufacturing

3D printer maker Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS) announced today a joint initiative with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to develop fused deposition modeling (FDM) additive manufacturing for production use.

The initiative builds upon a strong collaboration that leverages ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) to foster energy efficient production using additive manufacturing materials and processes. The project aims to develop FDM additive manufacturing technology to make it a mainstream manufacturing process.

The project targets two main objectives:

  • Development of in-process inspection to assure part quality and suitability for service
  • Development of carbon fibre reinforced FDM feedstock materials to produce strong, lightweight components

Weight reduction has a major impact on fuel consumption. For example, on a commercial aircraft, a 500-pound (approx. 227 kg) weight reduction results in a quarter-million-dollar savings (approx. £160 million) in fuel costs each year.

The overarching goal of the DOE initiative is to reduce the energy usage of U.S. industry, commercialise new products more quickly, and revitalise the global competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing.

“The research and development done at the MDF allows us to explore innovative ideas in next-generation materials and manufacturing technologies to help U.S. industry,” says Dr. Lonnie Love, Distinguished Research Scientist and Group Leader for Automation, Robotics and Manufacturing at ORNL. “The project with Stratasys will lead to commercialisation of new products that will ultimately make U.S. manufacturing more competitive and energy efficient.”

Beyond reducing energy use via lighter-weight transportation vehicles, the additive manufacturing or 3D printing process itself is more efficient than traditional subtractive manufacturing processes, such as machining parts or machining production tools and molds.

“The additive process can reduce the energy impact of manufacturing,” says Stratasys Vice President of Direct Digital Manufacturing Jeff DeGrange. “It reduces material consumption, waste streams, large investments into metal tooling, warehouse costs and transportation costs. You don’t have to bring in material just to machine 75 percent of it away as with traditional manufacturing. Additive manufacturing deposits material only where it’s needed to grow a part.”

Manufacturing is a major component of the U.S. economy, accounting for 11 percent of GDP ($1.5 trillion), more than 12 million jobs, and 57 percent of U.S. exports. But while U.S. innovation remains strong, most companies don’t have the leading-edge R&D facilities and services that help to commercialise new ideas.

“The initiative with Oak Ridge presents a significant opportunity, particularly in the aerospace and automotive industries, to enable lightweight high performance products to reach the market quicker and at lower costs,” says DeGrange.

For more information, visit: www.stratasys.com/landing-pages/oak-ridge-video

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