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Rapid prototyping for sheet metal parts


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#1 Magoo

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 11:25

Ford calls this Ford Freeform Fabrication Technology (F3T). Can do sheet metal "stampings" in hours instead of weeks. See how Ford does it with this short video:



Video: Ford unveils rapid prototyping for sheet metal parts | Mac's Motor City Garage.com



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Edited by Magoo, 09 July 2013 - 11:31.


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#2 gruntguru

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 22:43

That is nuts!

#3 pugfan

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 00:21

Ford calls this Ford Freeform Fabrication Technology (F3T).


Probably not for a little while but, the new billet?

#4 Canuck

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 01:09

Very intriguing indeed...

#5 indigoid

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 02:24

Very intriguing indeed...


Yes. A game changer. I really, desperately hope Ford don't try to keep this tech to themselves.

#6 Tony Matthews

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 05:46

It's being replicated in China at this instant...

#7 Catalina Park

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 08:20

Just when I was thinking of getting a Chinese English wheel.

#8 Tony Matthews

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 10:38

It will probably last longer than an English Chinese meal.

#9 desmo

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 19:02

The cost of forming small runs of formed sheet may go down from batshit crazy to merely crazy. Plus, fast.

#10 mariner

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 19:39

I know nothing about the actual process but the Morgan Aero car has long front wings ( fenders) made in one peice of aluminium by a process called " blow moulding"

As I understand it from the Morgan factory it originated in aerospace and the alloy is literally blown against a former by a blast of super hot air. I guess the heat level is enough to soften the alloy and the pressure is enough to drive it into the fomer. Probably not super cheap but the Aero is pretty low volume , around 100 to 200 units per year.

#11 bigleagueslider

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 05:30

The ability to produce 1 or 2 prototypes of formed sheet metal parts is not as much of a "game-changer" as you might imagine. It is now possible to design and analyze these sheet metal parts using only digital CAD and FEA tools. Thus there is no real need for an expensive machine that produces single prototypes.

#12 Tenmantaylor

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 06:27

Same applies to most components, bls. Final working prototyping is very important, however, and relying purely on FEA is still not that reliable. Ask McLaren how good the MP428 was on the simulator before they made it...

#13 Magoo

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 13:03

The ability to produce 1 or 2 prototypes of formed sheet metal parts is not as much of a "game-changer" as you might imagine. It is now possible to design and analyze these sheet metal parts using only digital CAD and FEA tools. Thus there is no real need for an expensive machine that produces single prototypes.


The potential game changer is no dies. Huge for specialty vehicles and vintage car restoration.

#14 Greg Locock

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 19:48

I agree that for crash and durability this technique would not work especially well as the work hardening will be different to a stamped part.

but to me a possible game changer is that you could make hard tools for soft parts using this to make a skin for the mould. Lead times for big injection moulding dies are eighteen months, if you could reduce that to six months the guys with the pony tails get a whole extra year to play in the studio. (Late edit, but I suspect that machining the shape of the die is only a small part of the tool build timing)

The lead time for soft tooling for body parts is also pretty grim, so it may be possible to get a bit more design time for the exterior as well. (Late edit - but I'm not sure at what point in the program you need cars that look like the final thing but are made in an unrepresentative way - our main working prototypes are frankenstien type creations, stretched over the new floorpan)

Edited by Greg Locock, 11 July 2013 - 22:50.


#15 bigleagueslider

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 07:02

Same applies to most components, bls. Final working prototyping is very important, however, and relying purely on FEA is still not that reliable.


I am currently working on the design of a subsytem for a manned NASA launcher. The primary method of validating our designs for stress, fatigue, fracture, thermal, vibration, flow, etc. is by analysis using FEA tools. We also perform qualification tests on the components, but these qual tests are primarily to validate our analysis work.

As for protoype quantities of drawn sheet metal parts, it is not that costly to have them hydroformed. Hydroforming only requires producing a single die. I've also seen complete unibody panels made in prototype quantities on an 1800 ton stamping press using tools made from fiberglass with a concrete backing. The fiberglass tool surface would last for around 10-20 steel stampings before it had to be replaced.


#16 MatsNorway

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 12:41

http://www.nasa.gov/...0/#.UePpvG3XCkz

#17 Canuck

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 15:04

I see it not unlike the availability of inexpensive CNC work. Complicated parts with shapes that are difficult if not impossible to produce by hand can be had by the hobbyist. With a modicum of training, anyone can load and run an NC machine, but not anyone can skillfully manage a manual lathe or mill. One-off or low volume can be done with a skilled craftsman and his hammers, dollies and an English wheel, but that's not something the average guy even has access to, much less can take the time to learn. A CNC version of that can be purchased, installed and run like any other machine tool, requiring only a modicum of the original process's skills. In theory, one could have their part finished same-day - much, much faster building a fiberglass skin with a concrete backing. You could reasonably make one part, though the programming cost is now a significant cost of the single part.

Done correctly and assuming the software is there (saw the Fanuc branding on the machine so one assumes existing software platforms will have little trouble absorbing this platform), you could drag your rotted classic / antique / whatever fender to the machine shop where they'd laser scan it, use software to patch the shape, fire the shape into the tool-path software (SolidCAM, Mastercam, BobCAM, EdgeCam etc.), fire the program to the machine, have the basic-skill operator load the specified tools and sheetmetal and off you go. A capable process could roll out your functional part before your fiberglass skin was dry.

And that's only my hobby-centric, gear-headed, uncreative, unimaginative perspective. Imagine the uses the smart folks can put it to.

#18 MatsNorway

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Posted 15 July 2013 - 19:46

Oh snap i just imagined how my future would be if i get to make tools with 3D printing. I hope it becomes reality.