The Freeform Fabrication of Structurally Optimized and Complexly Shaped Metal Tubular Components
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The service conditions of many structural frames composed of tubular metal components would ideally warrant the use of high strength-to-weight ratio components with shapes and internal geometries that respond to context-specific structural requirements. Commercially available and emerging solid freeform fabrication technologies can be utilized to indirectly or directly manufacture metal tubular structural components with optimizing features that cannot otherwise be manufactured. The results of prototyping experiments demonstrating the viability and potential of this application of additive manufacturing will be presented. This presentation will discuss successful prototype 356 aluminum and 316 stainless steel internally reinforced freeform tubular components manufactured indirectly using expendable patterns made by selective laser sintering and 3D printing. The application of laser and metal powder based freeform fabrication technologies that provide superior material properties will also be discussed, especially in terms of requirements for multi-axis deposition and sophisticated path planning software, and the implications of voxel- or layer-based functionally gradient materials.