More than 90% of automotive components require some type of tooling—resulting in a very significant component of cost. A large portion of this cost accumulates because of the need for tools and dies to be reconfigured. This is simply due to the fact that many tools cannot be changed once they are manufactured. Most existing methods of tool change or reconfiguration are “subtractive”— that is, they can only be changed by removing material. POM’s innovation addresses this need and can possibly impact up to 20% of automotive tooling needs.
The POM DMD (direct metal deposition) process is the blending of five common technologies: lasers; computer-aided design (CAD); computer-aided manufacturing (CAM); sensor technology; and powder metallurgy. The resulting process creates parts by focusing an industrial laser beam onto a tool-steel work piece so as to create a pool of molten metal. A small stream of powdered tool-steel metal is then injected into the melt pool to increase the size of the molten pool. By moving the laser beam back and forth, under CNC (computer numeric control), and tracing out a pattern determined by a computerized CAD design, the solid metal tool steel part is built up, line by line, one layer at a time.
Thus DMD is a process that allows the adding of dense metal to a base of hard or soft materials. The process therefore permits the possibility to have new tools made from softer metals, while existing hard tool surfaces may be changed, in order to create new part geometry on a tool that would otherwise have to be scrapped. Another DMD advantage is the ability to fabricate conforming cooling channels and imbed high conductivity heat sinks that are integral to the die cavity.
In short, this innovation allows tooling to be made or modified at less cost. In some cases, tooling can be more productive simply due to the way it is constructed and the advantages the availability of the DMD process gives the tool designer.