by Kip Hanson
Exco Engineering may have just reinvented itself with its new five axis machining centres and one of the largest tooling cells in the world, but there’s one member of the management team that hopes to minimize sending parts to the machine shop.
“We’re working on developing the additive process to the point where many of the conventional machining steps can be eliminated entirely,” says Exco director of additive manufacturing, Wessel Byleveld. “For instance, we haven’t tapped a hole in a piece of steel in six months. We’ve grown all our threads directly in the tool, including pipe threads, angled holes… anything is possible. This saves us hours and hours of machining time.”
The additive process he’s talking about is the M 400 metal powder bed fusion printer from EOS, “the largest such machine on the market,” says Byleveld. Two years ago, he was made responsible for developing the processes that would make additive manufacturing an integral part of Exco’s offering.
He’s since taken the additive ball and run with it, producing conformal-cooled mould inserts boasting three times the life of conventionally machined H13 steel tools.
There’s far more to this story, which we’ll cover in greater detail in an upcoming edition of Shop Metalworking Technology.
For now though, know that Byleveld is busy playing with his newest 3D printer, a four-laser version of the first EOS M 400, a machine that he says is pushing the limits of what’s possible. Stay tuned.