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New technologies lead to new business opportunities, and the need for expanding capabilities and services. That’s especially true for today’s mold manufacturers, who are being called upon to apply new mold technologies to help OEM customers achieve greater efficiencies and better quality parts.
Linear Mold & Engineering (Livonia, MI) was one of the few moldmaking companies that was an early adopter of Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), developed by Germany-based EOS GmbH. Linear soon developed a specialty niche in building complex injection molds with conformal cooling using the DMLS process—which has resulted in a number of new business opportunities—including “growing” conformal cooling inserts for molds being built by other moldmakers in the area. (See related story.)
Linear’s expertise has also allowed it to expand from conformal cooling inserts to producing end-use parts in DMLS for the aerospace industry. This increased demand led the company to add a CMM to its quality department. The new Brown & Sharpe Xcel 7107 CMM provides Linear with an in-house quality measuring system. Prior to the purchase, a third-party service provider was performing the company’s measurement requirements.
According to Steve Spaleny, director of sales and program management, “The driver for us to add CMM capabilities in house is the increasing demand from the aerospace industry for production component manufacturing in our DMLS department.” Currently, Linear has four EOS M270 Direct Metal Laser Sintering machines.
“With Linear’s recent expansion and equipment additions, we are becoming a full-service production supplier of aerospace parts using additive manufacturing technology,” Spaleny explains. “Because we are seeing greater demand for more end-use parts, our customers require complete dimensional inspection data to certify the quality of the parts the aerospace companies are buying from us. We must have the capability to provide this inspection data to support the accuracy of our products manufactured using additive manufacturing processes.”
Using the DMLS and SLM technologies means that Linear can help the aerospace industry eliminate significant weight, as well as minimize the need for welding, brazing and fasteners. Not only does additive manufacturing technology reduce weight, but it reduces time, costs and the environmental impact by reducing the number of components being produced singularly, which reduces energy requirements, scrap and packaging to ship the singular parts.
“We have the capability to take smaller assemblies of four to five parts and ‘grow’ the entire component, and turn multiple part assemblies into one part,” Spaleny states.
The CMM will be beneficial to the manufacture of Linear Mold’s conformal cooling inserts, which the company builds into many of its customers’ molds. The company also builds and sells custom conformal cooling inserts for production mold builders. Linear takes advantage of its conformal cooling expertise in their own internal molding division, which currently has nine presses ranging from 33 to 1,000 tons clamping force. Linear recently announced a planned expansion of its molding division in 2013, with the addition of two to three more large-tonnage presses to meet increased demand.
“The more production parts we do using DMLS, SLM and plastic injection molded parts, the greater our need for higher levels of quality inspection to prove out that accuracy,” Spaleny concludes. “Adding a CMM is a natural and critical step toward assuring quality in the continued growth of Linear’s production manufacturing.”
For More Information
Linear Mold & Engineering/ (734) 422-6060