3D printing champions sustainability in Optomec LENS machine repair at RIT

One of the fastest growing areas of application for additive
manufacturing is in spare parts and repair. Aerospace giants,
i.e. Airbus and Boeing, SIA
Engineering Company
 and smaller units
like Ohio’s Airborne
Maintenance & Engineering Services
 prove that the
technology is invaluable to the aerospace sector. Other areas,
logistics and communications
, marine & offshore, and
automotive, are also introducing 3D printers to improve

In the latest example of additive manufacturing for industrial
repair, a broken gear shaft from a circa 1960s machine has been
saved from the scrapheap by a team at Rochester Institute of
 (RIT). Using CNC milling machines
retrofitted with
Optomec LENS technology
, the repair takes on a hybrid
additive and subtractive manufacturing approach.

DED in Optomec's LENS technology as used in the InfraTrac study. Screengrab via Optmec on YouTubeOptomec DED based
LENS technology, 3D printing onto a premed metal surface. Photo
via Optomec

Fixes in a fraction of the time

CNC milling machines at RIT’s Golisano Institute for
 were retrofitted with the Optomec LENS
Print Engine in 2015. Standing for “Laser Engineered Net
Shaping” the LENS system is a metal 3D printing process using
powdered alloy feedstock. One of the main advantages of this
technology is its ability to 3D print directly onto pre-made,
i.e. curved, surfaces.

In the case of the retro gear, used in a system
at Hansford Parts and
 a precision machining manufacturer in
Macedon, NY,  LENS technology was used to 3D print missing
metal teeth.

“Using the 3D printing capabilities available here at RIT,”
Mark Walluk
, senior engineer at RIT, “we were able to fix
those gear teeth and have Hansford’s machine back in use in a
fraction of the time. We can do in hours what traditionally can
take days or even weeks.”

The repaired gear with news LENS 3D printed and machined gears highlighted. Photo via RITThe repaired gear
with news LENS 3D printed and machined gears highlighted. Photo
via RIT

Industrial recycling 

Had additive manufacturing not been available, the part would
have otherwise become scrap metal. Bob Krochmalech,
Hansford’s vice president and chief operating officer, called
the project “a complete success.”

“I believe in the near future most if not all prototypes will
be 3D printed in the manufacturing arena—even in the smallest
shops, adds Krochmalech.

“Additive manufacturing is instrumental in the reusing and
remanufacturing of parts, and saves raw metal and energy
resources for a more ‘green’ solution. It’s changing the way
we look at manufacturing and engineering components in the

Walluk concludes, “We can certainly replicate the 3D printing
solution we developed for Hansford’s gear shaft in future

Other context for LENS and RIT

Tongtai Machine & Tool Co., Taiwan recently integrated
Optomec’s LENS system
into its existing CNC machine lines.

And, in 2016, RIT opened the Additive
Manufacturing and Multifunctional Printing (AMPrint)
, an $18 million facility installed with all the
latest 3D printing technology including machines from Optomec.

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Featured image shows the repaired gear with news LENS 3D
printed and machined gears highlighted. Photo via

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