Additive manufacturing continues to explore out-of-the-box thinking for ways to make three-dimensional parts fast.
Vendors of additive manufacturing technology continue to introduce new ways to build three-dimensional parts. The main driver behind this continuing evolution is to build parts faster to compete more with traditional manufacturing technologies. Here’s a look at some of the more recent introductions of 2018.
New ways to three dimensionally build parts: Dot Forming
Mitsubishi Electric Corp developed a dot forming technology that delivers near final shaped parts. The technology uses a combination of laser deposition, computer numerical control (CNC) and computer aided manufacturing CAM technologies in its 3D printer.
The three-dimensional parts are solid, with few voids. A laser-wire directed-energy deposition (DED) method uses focused thermal energy to fuse materials as they are deposited at high speeds. The method involves repeat spot forming by synchronously controlling the pulsed laser irradiation, the supply of metal wires and shield gas, and the shaping position. Shape accuracy is 60% more precise compared to conventional consecutive forming technology.
Oxidation is reduced by more than 20% compared to the conventional technology because the high temperatures are limited to a narrow spot forming area.
Mitsubishi Electric believes that this technology will raise productivity in a range of applications because of its ability to deliver near-final shaping of aircraft and automobile parts and build-up repairs.
A three-dimensional metal shaping machine incorporating the new technology was shown at the 29th Japan International Machine Tool Fair in November. Mitsubishi Electric expects to launch a commercial version within the fiscal year ending in March 2021.
New ways to three dimensionally build parts: Electrophotographic technology
Evolve Additive Solutions, Inc., developed a process it is calling Selective Thermoplastic Electrophotographic Process or STEP. This process is for automated manufacturing and factory-floor integration, and enables users to work with production-grade thermoplastics for volume manufacturing applications across multiple industries, including consumer, automotive, industrial and medical. It combines 2D imaging technology with proprietary IP developed by Evolve to precisely align incoming layers. Special bonding techniques create final parts that are fully dense with isotropic properties equal to or exceeding injection molding.
This scalable and extensible process combines Evolve’s proprietary technology with electrophotography to produce additive manufactured parts that meet or exceed the attributes of traditionally manufactured parts.
The system is in the Alpha development stage. Evolve recently announced it is working with Kodak to further develop the technology for use in a manufacturing environment. Kodak will also test the applicability of the STEP technology for new manufacturing strategies to significantly reduce time to market and expand product design capabilities.
Kodak has been pioneering work on electrophotographic technology for more than 40 years. The Kodak NEXPRESS Platform delivers unique print capabilities in a modular and upgradeable package, making it the platform for Evolve to use in its additive technology. Evolve will use a Kodak-developed toner manufacturing process to make the part toners for the Evolve system. The electrophotographic technology is part of the whole solution comprising hardware, materials, processes, workflow software, and services required to print and finish parts cost effectively at high quality and high speed.
“As the co-inventor of STEP and the executive in charge of development over the last nine years, it’s not only exciting but critical that we get the technology into a customer’s hands for development of real-world applications,” said Steve Chillscyzn, CEO of Evolve Additive Solutions. “The Alpha stage is key to our progress and provides the necessary feedback to R&D to get to commercialization.”
BigRep approaches manufacturing with a faster way to deposit material. Its Thermoplastic Extrusion (MXT) will power its two new 3D printers, BigRep PRO and EDGE. Both printers can print with high-performance materials for applications in automotive, aerospace, consumer goods, manufacturing and more.
Metering Extruder Technology (MXT) establishes a clear separation between filament feeding and melting and molten extrusion, which allows full control over the amount and speed of material extruded at any given time. This technology takes advantage of the printing materials BigRep, in partnership with BASF, develops.
PRO and EDGE are equipped with two MXT modular extrusion heads, which manage and synchronize the extrusion and printing operations. Thus:
- Printing speeds of >600 mm/s when the PRO is used with its finest 0.6 mm nozzle. The EDGE surpasses that with speeds of 1,000 mm/s with the finest 0.6 mm nozzle in place.
- Demonstrated filament throughput rate of 5x at the maximum extrusion rate and 3x at the average extrusion rate.
BigRep PRO can handle large-scale industrial features with a build envelope of one cubic meter and a large, temperature-controlled spool chamber for continuous printing with high-performance materials, like ASA/ABS, nylon and more. The insulated, enclosed metal frame ensures an optimal even temperature control. The heated print bed is mounted with polyimide foil for better adhesion during the printing process, and an integrated inductive sensor semi-automatically levels the bed.
BigRep EDGE, with a print bed measuring 1500 x 800 x 600 mm, uses high-end, high performance materials for end-use parts, functional prototypes and composite tooling. Its heated build chamber controls the environment to 200° C in the chamber and 220° C in the print bed. The EDGE also features automatic, upward-moving doors and an easy-to-use graphical interface on a large screen for control over all print settings.
The technology powering the printers includes hardware from Bosch Rexroth. The PRO and the EDGE will incorporate a state-of-art CNC control system and drives by Bosch Rexroth, making these systems IoT-ready with full connectivity and data.
BigRep PRO is available to order immediately. BigRep EDGE is scheduled for release in Q2 2019.
More 3D printers deliver more color
Mimaki introduces an advanced color additive manufacturing technology that delivers more than 10 million colors. The Mimaki 3DUJ-553 3D printer helps designers and product developers reach high levels of photorealism because of the fine detail and extensive color capability.
Said Bert Benckhuysen, Senior Product Manager at Mimaki, “Skin tones – where the slightest variations can easily be detected by the human eye – are reproduced with photorealistic quality to meet the accuracy of scanning equipment. Product developers striving for accurate representations of their designs get smooth color gradations, minimizing granularity, and special spot colors can be precisely created for brands.”
The 3DUJ-553 3D printer colors are consistent and repeatable due to the use of ICC color profiling. Mimaki has also developed a clear resin for full transparency and semi-transparent colors. Printing in 19, 32 or 42 µm layers assures fine detail and smooth surfaces, which are preserved during post-processing as the support material is water-soluble.
Through a collaborative project with Materialise, Mimaki 3D printed models are available through i.materialise.com under the name Multicolor+.
Said Miranda Bastijns, Materialise Director Manufacturing Online, “Materialise is trying out Mimaki’s full-color 3D printing technology. The material, Multicolor+, offers vivid and intense colors and enables strong, sturdy materials with a minimum wall thickness of 1 mm. It also allows for printing interlocking parts. Multicolor+ suits printing decorative parts such as figurines, avatars and architectural models.”
Mimaki 3D printed models have a strength comparable to ABS plastic. Printed in UV-cured photopolymer resins with inkjet printing heads, models can be handled direct from the print build tray, which is a large 500 x 500 x 300 mm. The 3DUJ-553 3D printer is easy to operate either remotely or through a touch panel. Mimaki 3D Link software also allows colors to be changed on-the-fly.
Another color 3D printer introduction was the XRIZE, from Rize Inc. This printer is a desktop variety that suits industrial applications.
The XRIZE prints more than 810,000 colors and has a build volume of 12”x 8” x 8” (310 x 200 x 200 mm). Like RIZE’s first product, RIZE ONE, using the XRIZE 3D printer is as easy and safe as an office 2D printer. Printed parts require minimal pre- and post-processing and minimal material management.
XRIZE leverages RIZE’s Augmented Deposition process by extruding an engineering-grade thermoplastic and simultaneously jetting C, M, Y, K (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) inks through industrial print-heads for a full-color part. RELEASE INK is jetted between the part and the automatically generated supports. Once built, users can quickly peel the supports away from the part, leaving a smooth surface finish and eliminating the need for additional finishing. With RIZE ONETOUCH software, users can apply text, images and texture maps to monochrome part files and import color CAD files.
The company also introduce new materials for the printer: RIZIUM carbon and RIZIUM ENDURA.
RIZIUM Carbon is an engineering-grade thermoplastic filament reinforced with carbon fiber for a good visual finish and high modulus. RIZIUM CARBON fits applications such as functional prototyping for manufacturing.
RIZIUM ENDURA is a fiber-reinforced filament providing high-accuracy and high-impact strength. It suits large functional parts and is compatible with RIZE’s full-color inks.
Rize also introduced remote management and monitoring of its 3D printers with RIZE CONNECT. Users can receive notifications, queue jobs and manage an enterprise print farm from desktop and mobile devices. Users can also include digital part identification, QR codes and version control for part traceability, compliance and authenticity. RIZE CONNECT will be available in 2019.
Materials and 3D printers that can take the heat
Cincinnati Inc. (CI) launched a high-temperature version of its SAAM (Small Area Additive Manufacturing) 3D printer series. The SAAM HT 3D printer is the next step up, processing the highest performance polymer and composite materials.
Constructed from an all-metal enclosure and frame, it has a nozzle that can sustain temperatures up to 450 degrees C (842° F) and a bed temperature up to 260 degrees C (500° F). This allows the system to process materials such as ULTEM for the aerospace industry; PEEK, for use in medical applications; and polycarbonate for applications requiring high impact strength and heat resistance.
SAAM HT can manufacture tooling involved in high temperature operations such as parts that need to go into an autoclave for sterilization. The system can also be used for small batch production (from 10s to 100s of parts per run) because of its patented automatic-ejection mechanism.
“All materials compatible with SAAM can be used on the HT version,” said Chris Haid, General Manager of the NVBOTS Business Unit at CI.
Like the original version, the SAAM HT uses fused filament fabrication (FFF) technology to 3D-print parts directly from a CAD design using CI’s 3D printing software and certified materials.
Continuous automated operation enables high-capacity 3D printing of functional parts without the need for a dedicated operator. Parts are 3D printed and then ejected into a storage chamber, readying SAAM HT to begin producing the next part automatically.
Desktop Metal will install the first Production System in Q1 2019 at a Fortune 500 company. Additional customer installations at major automotive, heavy duty and leading metal parts manufacturers will follow throughout 2019, with broad availability in 2020.
Powered by Single Pass Jettingtechnology, the Production System is for mass production metal 3D printing. Dekstop Metal claims it is more than 4 times faster than any binder jet competitor and offers a 100 times speed improvement over any laser-based system.
It delivers printing speeds to 12,000 cm3per hour. The system has a build volume of 750 x 330 x 250 mm. Two full-width print bars, advanced powder spreaders and an anti-ballistic system spread powder and print in a single quick pass across the build area.
The System uses 32,768 piezo inkjet nozzles for a range of binder chemistries to print an array of metals – including tool steels, low alloy steels, titanium, and aluminum – at a rate of 3 billion drops per second.
The build is done in an industrial inert environment, including gas recycling and solvent recovery, to safely print reactive metals in mass production. It can print more than 60 kilograms of metal parts per hour.
The Production System is capable of mass customizing batches of generative designed gears at varying amounts with mass production efficiency. Instead of needing to post-process each part using laser or electrochemical etching, ink marking, or dot peening, parts can now be printed with serial numbers – or other customization detail – in place, rending an entire build volume of unique parts with no need for post processing.
Metal 3D printing
Stratasys will offer its newest innovation in metal 3D printing in 2019. The “Layered Powder Metallurgy” (LPM) technology is designed to make production of metal parts quicker, easier and more cost-effective.
The platform is for additive manufacturing of short-run metal parts. The technology uses standard Powder Metallurgy (PM) alloys, mechanical properties with high accuracy and controlled shrinkage, as well as extremely fast throughput.
“Current approaches to 3D printing metals often consist of slow post-processing, painstakingly intricate support removal, and hours of machining and grinding. Combined with the high cost of AM powders, this means each part is expensive, with a total cost of ownership that is hard to justify,” said Rafie Grinvald, Director of Product Marketing and Management, Stratasys. “Our new platform presents a viable alternative to typical production methods, helping customers reduce the costs of creating reliable, consistent production-grade, metal parts for short-run applications.”
Developed internally over the past several years, Stratasys’ platform incorporates the company’s proprietary jetting technology and commonly used powder metallurgy, starting with aluminum powders. The LPM solution includes a 3-step, additive manufacturing process combining traditional powder metallurgy with Stratasys’ PolyJet ink-jet technology. The process includes printing of boundaries with proprietary thermal ink, powder dispensing and spreading, and then compaction of the powder layer to achieve high-density and controllable shrinkage.
The end result is intended to be economically competitive in cost-per-part and throughput with easy to implement post-processing and extremely high part quality.
Stratasys is currently in closed-loop feedback discussions with OEMs and Tier-1s on the new metals platform. More details – including product specs and detailed launch timelines – will be made available soon.
Evolve Additive Solutions
Mitsubishi Electric Corporation