Some executives believe that the current state of additive manufacturing equipment is too focused on prototyping instead of production. But more companies continue to enter the space of additive manufacturing, especially for metal materials. Additive Industries, based in Eindhoven, Netherlands, announced at the recent RAPID Conference that it intends to develop an industrial additive manufacturing system it is naming MetalFAB1.
The goal, noted Daan Kersten, CEO of Additive Industries, “is to take 3D metal printing beyond the current lab and prototyping use to actual fabrication use on the factory floor. Our system will bring a substantial improvement in reproducibility, productivity and flexibility as a result of our quest to design an industrial grade metal printing process.”
For reproducibility and stability requirements common in manufacturing applications, the MetalFAB1 takes its inspiration from the semiconductor industry, noted Kersten. Stability is achieved through the machine design in combination with a continuous calibration strategy.
The machine will be a powder bed system with a laser (up to 4 lasers are possible) and the powder management capability to enable it to operate for 72 hours unmanned. A software platform will handle simulation, post processing of 3D printed parts, quality control, and infrastructure monitoring. A laser melting process, parts built in the machine will be 99.9% dense.
Additive Industries believes in an integrated process flow for industrial additive manufacturing, therefore multiple process steps are incorporated in one machine. Fully automated handling connects all process steps, reduces manual labour, and improves product consistency and quality, as well as ensuring operator safety. The machine should deliver a 10-fold productivity increase compared to many current systems.
The modular architecture offers flexibility, allowing the user to start with a basic machine configuration that can be enlarged as needed. Modules can be added to allow the use of multiple materials in one machine without having to clean the powder system and run the risk of cross-contamination. “We are on schedule to launch the machine in the fourth quarter of this year”, added Mark Vaes, Technology Manager of Additive Industries and the leader of the MetalFab1 development project.
A beta version of MetalFab1 is scheduled to launch sometime in the 4th quarter of 2015.