Using Additive and Subtractive Manufacturing in Harmony

There is an all too common belief that additive and subtractive manufacturing are wholly separate and even competing processes. This distinction is likely rooted in the marketing efforts of additive manufacturing companies that aim to promote 3D printing as a new and revolutionary manufacturing process that has advantages over more traditional, subtractive processes. In some cases, this claim is true. But it is much more valuable to look at how 3D printing is being used by manufacturers in various industries to complement existing manufacturing solutions. In other words, let’s do away with the rhetoric of “out with the old and in with the new” and look at how new additive processes can bolster and improve existing subtractive manufacturing processes, like CNC machining. Before we dive in, it is important to first consider the differences that do exist between additive and subtractive manufacturing—after all, they are completely different approaches. In short, subtractive manufacturing consists of removing material from a block of raw material (whether metal or plastic) to obtain a final part. Subtractive processes can be conducted manually by cutting or drilling away at a materi...

Lilium’s 36-Motor Flying Taxi Takes Off for the First Time

The latest would-be air taxi of the future has taken to the sky: Lilium’s new vertical-takeoff-and-landing prototype made its first flight on May 4, the Munich-based startup revealed today. Though Lilium says the gleaming five-seat electric can fly 186 miles in an hour, its first flight, like most such tests, was modest. Operated by remote control, it lifted off, hovered a few yards above the ground, and landed. The modest first outing that’s common for any new aircraft type. This followed months of extensive ground testing. Lilium has been quiet since sowing a subscale, two-seat prototype two years ago, but it has one of the more interesting—and contested—technological approaches in this burgeoning field. The “Lilium Jet” uses 36 electric-powered ducted fans. Inside each, a small rotor ingests air from the front and pushes it out of the rear at higher speeds. They’re not technically jet engines (so the aircraft isn’t a “jet”). The lack of spinning blades improves efficiency, reduces noise, and eliminates the risk of turning passing birds into chop suey. Though the work of flight testing and certification remains, Lilium aims to build an on-demand air taxi service in just a few...