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Advanced Robotic Gantry System Used for Multi-Process Directed Energy Deposition (DED) of Aerospace Structures and Materials

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Large Scale Additive Manufacturing of Metals (LSAMM) has been gaining traction in commercial sectors for the ease of manufacturing low-volume, high-mix complex parts. An advanced robotic gantry system which has a 6DOF arm, 3 Axis Gantry, and 2 Axis part positioner has recently been designed as part of a National Ship Building Program (NSRP) project used to deposit a high-skew propeller out of stainless steel. The robotic gantry system has capabilities to switch between multiple deposition processes and a PushCorp spindle which can be used for wire-brushing, grinding, and milling applications. The multi-process capability is also driving innovation towards “lights-out” DED giving the capabilities of switching between additive and subtractive manufacturing. The system also has been integrated in PowerMill, giving an offline programing tool for path planning of additive and subtractive manufacturing. As part of an AFRL Grand Challenge project, the robot cell has been used to develop additive and subtractive techniques for desired geometries using Ultra High Strength Steels (UHSS). Initial work focuses on demonstration geometries which have both additive and subtractive features of different resolutions for unique geometries. The results of the geometries and future works on developing “lights-out” workflows to drive higher efficiency manufacturing multi-process manufacturing. Future works are integrating a laser powder DED head into the digital workflow for producing higher geometrical feature fidelity, as well as identified ideal processes to reach desired feature properties.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the additive, subtractive, and inspection capabilities of the large scale gantry and how it applies to DED of aerospace parts.
  • Understand how providing a work cell with multi-process capabilities can help improve efficiency for manufacturing of DED parts using hybrid techniques.