Innovation combines metal 3D printing and CNC machining

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  • Plant & Equipment

A process that combines metal 3D printing and 5-axis CNC machining to quickly deliver complex, low-volume components from a ‘one-stop shop’ has been developed by the China-based, British-owned rapid manufacturer STAR Prototype.

Innovation combines metal 3D printing and CNC machining
Examples of the complex components made possible by STAR Prototype’s AddSub process.

Guangdong-based STAR president Gordon Styles says AddSub (additive/subtractive) Manufacturing was created after the company realised that most 3D printing companies don’t carry out secondary machining, meaning the customer needs to take care of the work themselves or farm it out to a specialist machining bureau.

Secondary machining is needed, Styles says, because "most metal 3D printed parts are not used as prototypes, but as complex low-volume manufactured components, and many of these parts need certain high-precision features that are virtually impossible to produce with 3D printing alone".

Not only does this mean more effort on the customer’s part, he says, but it’s also a time-consuming and often error-strewn leg.

AddSub Manufacturing, on the other hand, allows parts to be transferred directly from 3D printing machines onto CNC machines without having to be removed from the build plate – a development that also resolves the troublesome issue of subcontractors getting to grips with 3D-printed parts.

STAR says it sees the Subtractive CNC element of AddSub as being ideal for mating faces, precision bores, tapped holes, spigots and other high-precision features, and feels AddSub is likely to be of particular use in the motorsport, aerospace, military, medical and dental fields.

 Star Prototype China is a rapid prototyping and low-volume manufacturing company founded and owned by British engineer Gordon Styles, a 5-axis CNC machining specialist.

The company employs over 200 people and occupies 4,000 square metres of offices, factory and dormitories in the Guangdong city of Zhongshan, a 90-minutes ride by ferry from Hong Kong.

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