Although there’s an overwhelming amount of column inches expended on consumer 3D Printing, there are some substantial movements in the Industrial 3D Printing World. Fabrisonic has been one of the most interesting and perhaps most stealthy after having developed a unique additive manufacturing method on a large-scale with large implications for design and engineering. Leveraging better understood techniques like ultrasonic welding and CNC milling, Fabrisonic is able to create complex and detailed full-metal pieces, made of layers of different metals and even embedded electronics
Spun out of EWI in 2011, Fabrisonic has been tweaking machine design and taking orders, producing parts for Aerospace, Automotive, Research and general Industry. I discovered Fabrisonic while trying to find copper-based 3D Printing methods to make better heat-exchangers. Relatively high-speed, one key property of Ultrasonic Additive Manufacturing (UAM) was the ability to make fully-dense ‘prints’ at a relatively high speed for a lower cost than other methods (EOS, ExOne, etc).
Fabrisonic uses rolls of metal strips, which don’t have to be purchased from them. This is a huge boon for anyone who has considered 3D Printing on a production-scale, where nearly every manufacturer tunes their own machines to their own material, monopolizing supply and driving costs up.
The most interesting feature for me personally has been in the embedded electronics. Components like fibre optics, thermocouples or circuits are sandwiched between layers of metals, creating a single monolithic part. In a heat exchanger, for example, a higher granularity of data collection can be achieved. That is to say, dropping a thermocouple deep inside of a small, monolithic plate-and-shell heat exchanger is not a trivial matter; but it might be with Fabrisonic.
Drawbacks exist, as design complexity is not as free as other Additive Manufacturing methods. The CNC milling step must be carried out with each layer, and any complexity increases the milling travel lengths. Any metals can be used, but certain combinations suffer from galvanic corrosion. Regardless, UAM is a promising technology that supercharges the imagination, perfect for creating complex, multi-material and multi-function parts.