Hybrid machines combine additive and subtractive manufacturing

Hybrid machines combine additive with subtractive manufacturing in order to get the benefits of both worlds: The geometric freedom of additive manufacturing and the precision of machining. DMG Mori introduced with the Lasertec 65 3D such a machine, which is basically a 5-axis milling machine with a special laser welding “head”. This head blows out particles of metal under protective gas and welds it directly with the laser.

 

The result look interesting as illustrated in the video. Complex metal parts with machining quality surfaces and tolerances can be built. Comparing the concept to Laser Melting, the leading additive manufacturing technology for production of metal parts, we see two advantages:

  • No post processing: The milling operation allows to “include” the post-processing directly into the production. Further, the tilting of the build platform makes support structures obsolete (compared to Laser Melting, where support structures are required and need to be removed afterwards)
  • Faster build speed

 

However, the concept also has some disadvantages:

  • No direct production from digital files: Laser Melting, as all 3D printing technologies, can produce parts directly from digital files. For the hybrid machine, however, machine code needs to be written for each specific part (similar as with regular CNC milling machines). This reduces the potential for customized parts (as code needs to be adapted for each customization)
  • Only production of single parts: Laser Melting can produce several parts together and is interesting for whole series of small parts (e.g. up to several hundreds of individual dental crowns can be produced on a single machine over night). On the other hand, the hybrid machine needs to produce part after part with some changeover in-between.

 

Overall, the hybrid machine seems to be an interesting solution for the production of large metal parts and therefore is a good complement to Laser Melting, which is mainly suitable for small parts.