Additive Manufacturing

MAR 2018

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING is the magazine devoted to industrial applications of 3D printing and digital layering technology. We cover the promise and the challenges of this technology for making functional tooling and end-use production parts.

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Page 7 of 67

MARCH 2018 Additive Manufacturing Something to Add 6 Linear Comes Full Circle Years ago, I heard an additive manu- facturing expert dismiss the promise of conformal cooling of injection molds as a viable AM application. Tool steels are already good thermal conductors, he pointed out. Moving water lines a little closer to the mold's surface via 3D printing can offer at best only a slight advantage. What that argument missed is the impact of even a slight advantage across molding production quantities. For a part molded in the millions, shaving 1.5 seconds from cycle time thanks to faster cooling might mean that several injection molding machines can be redeployed. Consumer products com- panies are aware of this possibility and pursuing it, and Linear AMS is ready to help them. Again. The Livonia, Michigan, company recently returned to being independent. Two years ago, founder John Tenbusch sold majority ownership to a larger manufacturer, Moog. Linear had started as a mold shop, yet for Moog, this original kernel of its success in metal 3D printing was the piece that didn't fit. The firm wanted to focus on parts such as aircraft components, so it decided to divest mold- making. Lou Young, a Linear employee who had stayed on under Moog and who had helped lead the mold tooling efforts, asked if he could put in an offer for this business. Moog said yes. So Young called Tenbusch. The former owner was searching for his next opportunity. Young asked if he wanted to partner with him, becoming Linear's owner all over again. Today he is CEO and Young is president of the relaunched company. Conformal- cooled mold tooling will be the focus of the AM efforts of the company, which will also perform conventional manufacturing work including production injection molding. But here is a funny thing: Various potential customers for the conformal-cooled mold tooling had been waiting to commit. Cycle time improvements are clear, but would a mold insert made through laser sintering last as long one made through machining? There was just one way to know. Reaching an acceptable life of 5 million shots with a 3D-printed insert took 3 years for some molders, which are now coming to the end of that validation. The testing took long enough that, conceivably, these companies might not be aware of the extent to which the provider of the tools they've been testing had left the market before now returning. Here is another funny thing: Not long after Young and Tenbusch closed their deal with Moog, Tenbusch called Brandy Badami to say, "Hey, I got a job!" Badami was once his employee, senior account manager for Linear, and she mentioned that call when I recently met with her at Roush Industries. Today, she is Additive Manufacturing Business Development Manager with Michigan-based Roush, which is preparing to serve customers with one of the largest powder-bed AM machines available any- where (see page 10). Badami was amused to learn of the latest turn of events involving the company and person she used to work for. Yet at the same time, she is an example of why the relaunch of Linear will not involve simply putting the band back together. Badami's knowledge and experience with AM opened the way for her to advance into a position and an opportunity she treasures. Others who worked for Linear have done much the same. For Tenbusch, this is the legacy he loves. Committing to metal 3D printing was a strange and risky move when he began, but it turned out well in many ways, not in the least by launching careers for people who once wrestled with the technology alongside him. In one sense, all of this is just an interesting story involving a few notable figures in AM. But in another sense, these develop- ments illustrate how far additive manufacturing has come. That expert who dismissed conformal cooling? He made a reasonable guess. But today we are not guessing—the business cases for AM are being proven. And today, it is not just a few companies working on metal 3D printing and employing the talent involved in this work. Today, that talent has spread out, because AM for many companies is no longer risky or strange, but a key capability for what they aim to do. The relaunched company will focus on metal AM of mold inserts. The timing is great; some molders have just finished proving that this solution works. These developments illustrate how far additive manufacturing has come. Peter Zelinski / EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

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