Original Date: 11/03/1996
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Information : Communicating with Stereolithography
The Oak Ridge Y-12 Plant Fabrication Systems Department Development Division is using a commercial stereolithography system to enhance communications between design and manufacturing personnel. A stereolithography system is used to build a plastic prototype directly from a surface or solid CAD model without the need for any traditional machining or other manufacturing equipment. Thin slices (cross sections) of the CAD model are sent to the system layer by layer. While a platform is slowly lowered into a tank of ultraviolet curable photopolymer resin, an ultraviolet laser scans the CAD data onto the surface of the resin directly over the platform. The ultraviolet laser point touching the resin cures it, layer by layer, as the gradually solidifying part attaches to the platform and slowly forms, lowering into the tank with the platform.
The Y-12 stereolithography system is supported by extensive CAD expertise. Inputs are provided from Pro/Engineer, ANVIL-5000, and AutoCAD systems. While the CAD displays are graphic and useful, the displays can be difficult to interpret; therefore, creating inexpensive conceptual models that can be touched proved to be a useful visualization tool. Y-12 uses the models to check form/fit/function as part of bid packages, CAD verification, manufacturing planning, coordinate measurement machine (CMM) part program testing, tooling design, facility modeling, assembly models for display/training purposes, and mold creation. The stereolithography system has also been used to produce prototype hardware for experimental applications, such as lithium scoops, at reduced costs compared to conventionally produced hardware.
CAD data preparation and materials cost are two primary expenses of this process. The polymer resin used to create the prototypes and models has a cost of almost $500 per gallon. Since very few models consume a gallon of resin, this is an economical and useful tool.
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