In the U.S. market, Prodways is a rather recent addition to the additive manufacturing industry. The company, headquartered in France, has been involved in additive manufacturing for more than 25 years.
Last year the company had a booth at the RAPID show and displayed several of its machines. According to Philippe Laude, CEO of Prodways Group, 2015 was a significant year for the company. It began with the acquisition of Initial, a prototyping service in France, followed by the acquisition of Norge Systems, a company that develops powder-sintering systems. This acquisition will be key to Prodways powder sintering solutions.
Prodways also recently launched an aerospace division.
In the 1990s, André-Luc Allanic, was considered a worldwide specialist and pioneer of 3D printing who worked on several technologies, including stereolithography, selective laser sintering and polyamide powder sintering. He also developed some of the first European 3D printing systems for the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research) and Laser 3D which he joined in 1993. In 1997, Allanic started his own company—Optoform—and developed revolutionary systems.
In 2007, the arrival of a new generation of Digital Light Processing (DLP) microelectronic chips enabled Allanic to develop a new type of curing 3D printing technology. He linked a DLP chip with a high power UV diode (LED), resulting in MOVINGLight. In 2008, based on this technology, Allanic created a company to manufacture and market these 3D printers.
MOVINGLight DLP technology is a process of photopolymerization to produce prototypes or functional parts with a high resolution at high speeds. It uses photosensitive resins with moving DLP UV rays.
A part is created by successive layers of photosensitive epoxy, acrylate or composite resin under the action of a high-intensity ultraviolet laser. The moving DLP projects a high resolution image 40 x 70 mm on the polymer resin surface and sweeps across the whole surface to polymerize the shape of the 3D model. Once one layer of the material has solidified, the platform drops to the value of the thickness of the following layer and a new section is solidified.
This process was recently used in the manufacture of a model for reactor turbine blades using a Prodways material, PlastCure ABS3650. Currently, in the aerospace industry, the standard method to produce turbine blades uses conventional injection molds.
The finished part was made using the lost wax method. The Prodways 3D printer was used to create the ceramic shell mold for the blades. Once done, the mold can be used to hold the molten metal that finally forms the blades. The mold is fired in an oven, burning away the resin part to create a perfectly shaped cavity.
Some of the benefits of this type of additive manufacturing include the ability to create more complex shapes for reduced weight and increased efficiency, a master model can be easily altered and modified, useful for prototyping, and surface quality is excellent and dimensions precise.