Day two of FORMNEXT 2016, the catch-up of Additive Manufacturing 3D-printing industry
So what are the big players in metal additive manufacturing doing?
Looking at the big players for laser based powder bed fusion systems there is a clear trend for automation.
The aim is a reduction of labor and an increase in productivity. Electro Optical Systems (EOS) as CONCEPT LASER
were both presenting robot solutions for autonomous operation of large machine set-ups with multiple machines.
At EOS a handling device is providing fresh build envelopes from the IPM M SETUP STATION L to the M400 system.
When the build is finished the robot returns to collect the build and overflow material, transporting it to the
IPM UNPACK STATION L. The entire build envelope is rotated in the horizontal axis to remove excess material.
This system had been presented initially at EUROMOLD 2014 already. But that times it was connected directly to the machine, but the solution with the automated handling system will allow a higher utilisation of the unpacking station
in a multi-machine setup.
IPM M POWDERSTATION L
Further presented was the IPM M POWDERSTATION L and automated sieving and conveying module to handle the large amounts of material in an acceptable time frame.
GeorgFischer / AgieCharmillers Machining Solutions
Also worth to mention is cooperation between EOS and GeorgFischer / AgieCharmillers Machining Solutions.
AgieCharmilles will take care of the tooling sector for EOS. AgieChamilles had an own exhibition booth, promoting the
AM S 290 Tooling. The system is an EOS M290 equipped with a zero-point-clamping system, further modifications are in the pipeline. Through the cooperation, AgieCharmillers Machining Solutions will be able to offer a holistic solution regarding tooling for injection molding including process validation combining different technologies.
(important to know: GE recently acquired a 75% stake in Concept Laser)
Concept Laser unveiled it’s new M LINE FACTORY machine. The quad laser system was also presented with an autonomously operating handling device. The robot is providing the machine(s) with build envelopes, powder and overflow containers. After the build process, the build envelope and the powder overflow containers are collected from
the machine and brought to an automated unpacking station.
The key advantage is that multiple machines can be connected turning them into a conveyor belt like production-line.
This architecture should allow a significant smaller production footprint compared to other machine concepts.
The automated unpacking station is equipped with a vacuum nozzle mounted on a small industrial robot to extract excess material from the build envelopes. Further, a semi-manual version of an unpacking station with gloves for save manual powder extraction was presented.
To complete the holistic manufacturing approach, Concept Laser presented it’s CL WRX 3.0 Software Suite for the production management.
But it wasn’t only the machine manufacturers thinking big and about production and material management.
As a material supplier, LPW Technology also has an idea of the factory of the future. LPW is offering a powder hopper system to handle, control and measure materials. The hoppers or kegs are equipped with sensors to measure temperature, oxygen content, humidity, pressure, impacts and weight. Together with PowderWare software, this solution is aiming to ensure correct powder quantity and quality at any time of the production process.
Last year Additive Industries presented their MetalFAB1system via a virtual reality experience. This year Additive Industries brought the full-scale hardware. The two chamber system with one optical bench, which is serving both chambers, a heat treatment furnace as a complete powder recovery unit, a build tray magazine and the loading unit. All combined in one housing. The highest level of automation is aiming of this for a continuous production with a minimum of manual interaction. The highly customisable system is currently in a beta-testing phase with AIRBUS APWORKS.
SLM Solutions AG
SLM Solutions presented the full product range from the SLM125 HL via the SLM280HL to the SLM500HL quad laser system.
So no real news in the portfolio but an animation showed how the future may look like. In the planning is an SLM800HL.
A multilaser system based on the SML500HL but with an extended z-axis to 800 mm. The machine(s) would be embedded a highly automated production system. See the video-animation of the SLM 500/800 HL here.
3D Systems Inc had its flagship model ProX®DMP 320 machine and the smaller ProX®DMP 200 on show.
The 320 is equipped with a single laser source and has a 275 mm x 275 mm by 420 mm build envelope.
The massive build chamber of the 320 can be evacuated for lowering the gas consumption whilst generating
an inert atmosphere. The entire powder feeding and build space unit can be removed from the machine, once the build job is finished. However, this machine design with its manual material handling does lead to oxidation of material and higher risks, not only when handling reactive materials .