Rockwell International Corporation
1049 Camino Dos Rios
PO Box 1085
Thousand Oaks CA 91358-0085
CONTACTS: Dr. Michael James, Rockwell Science Center 805-373-4230
Dr. Marshall Burns, Ennex Fabrication Technologies
Powder metal car, plane and spacecraft parts "fabbed" by computer
WILL U.S. INDUSTRY MAKE METAL COMPONENTS FROM COMPUTER-FORMED POWDER?
THOUSAND OAKS, CALIF., Dec. 1, 1997 -- Although automated fabricating
machines (often called "rapid prototypers") can build plastic prototypes
of new products directly from computer design data -- and do so much
faster and at far less cost than machine shops can carve prototypes out
of metal -- manufacturers aren't satisfied.
"You can touch-and-feel a plastic prototype, but you can't
really test it for strength or operation if the actual product will be
made of metal," says Michael James, director of Materials Science at the
Rockwell Science Center in Thousand Oaks, Calif. "It's a vexing problem
for companies that want to stay ahead of their competitors," he stated.
Rockwell's proposed solution
James thinks Rockwell has the answer both for makers of unique
products such as spacecraft components and customized medical protheses,
and for designers of mass-produced goods like home appliances and cars.
It's a process using CAD data as the basis for transforming specially
formulated metal powders directly into functional metal parts without
forging, stamping or machining.
Rockwell and Los Angeles-based Ennex Fabrication Technologies
are jointly studying the marketplace to assess the commercial
alternatives for this technology; some leading-edge technologists
believe that this process could soon outmode traditional approaches to
Rockwell calls its process DMF -- Direct Metal Fabrication. It
employs a blend of raw metal powders that enables product engineers to
use stainless steel, superalloys and other industrial metals, rather
than simply plastic resins, in suitable types of rapid prototypers and
automated fabricators. With this process, prototypes can be as strong
and functional as designers intend their final products to be.
Engineering designs can be verified and put into production faster and
at less cost than ever before, according to James.
Is U.S. industry ready?
Rockwell's DMF has been pilot-tested in making rocket nozzles,
electrical connectors and stamping dies. The question now is whether
U.S. industry as a whole is ready for this revolutionary technique.
Ennex Fabrication will explain the capabilities of DMF to numerous
manufacturers throughout the United States and assess how anxious they
are to try it and buy it.
Meanwhile, Rockwell and Ennex Fabrication have submitted a joint
proposal to DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, for
applying DMF to the manufacture of new and replacement parts for tanks,
trucks, aircraft and other military hardware. Using DMF in defense
applications could save taxpayers money, said Ennex Fabrication's
president Dr. Marshall Burns.
Individuals interested in discussing the use of DMF in their
company's production or prototyping applications are invited to contact
Ennex Fabrication Technologies at 310-824-8700, or e-mail DMF@ennex.com.
# # #
EDITORS' NOTES: According to the Metal Powders Industries Federation
(Princeton, NJ, 609/452-7700), powder metallurgy is experiencing strong
growth in aerospace hardware, automobile engines, electronics, medical
devices and manufacturing tools.
The Rockwell Science Center is the principal research laboratory
of Rockwell, performing research in the physical and information
under Rockwell, Boeing, Meritor and government sponsorship.
Rockwell is a global electronics company with leadership
positions in industrial automation, semiconductor systems and avionics
and communications, with fiscal 1997 sales of approximately $8 billion
and 45,000 employees. Rockwell's world headquarters is located in Costa
Mesa in Orange County, California.
Ennex Fabrication Technologies is a technology development
company focused exclusively on automated fabricator technologies and
applications, and provides valuable consulting to companies that
develop, sell or use fabricators in their own businesses. Ennex
Fabrication was founded in 1991 by Marshall Burns, Ph.D., an
internationally recognized authority on fabricators, and author of the
first major book on the subject.
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