At Formnext 2022, AM Solutions – 3D post processing technology showed an impressive range of additive manufacturing (AM) post-processing technologies to an engaged and enthusiastic international audience of visitors. The key for AM Solutions is that its suite of technologies today pragmatically addresses post-processing issues in the AM process chain, and attendees could see that post-processing challenges whether for metal, plastic, or resin parts and components could be solved in an automated, cost-effective, reliable, and repeatable fashion.
David Soldan, Head of AM Solutions – 3D post processing technology says, “Formnext is always an impressive event for the AM sector, but in 2022 there was a new energy from attendees which we noticed at our booth. In the past, Formnext to a certain extent was the place to go to look for what new technologies and inventions were coming in the future. But this year it was obvious that attendees were approaching us with real applications and were looking for practical and available solutions today. I think that this is the result of a number of factors. First, there is a discernible feeling that AM is now being adopted by more and more companies, and is being properly integrated into manufacturing processes.
As such, I think it is fair to say that we are detecting AM moving in the Gartner Hype Cycle towards maturity and mainstream adoption. For sure today, this is being driven by the desire of companies to localise manufacturing to overcome supply chain issues, highlighted in the recent pandemic, and made all the more acute today by the effects of the war in Ukraine, and issues related to economic downturn. AM Solutions’ suite of post-processing solutions are ideally placed to service the needs of companies integrating AM into their production processes.”
Post processing is an increasingly important area of focus in the AM process chain, especially as more and more companies are using the technology for the production of end-use parts where attention to repeatable tolerance attainment and surface finish are vital to ensure required functionality and conformance to design intent. The focus for the sector needs to be the integration of tried and tested automated post-processing technologies that fulfil quality goals but do so in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Soldan continues, “Each day at Formnext we greeted a significant number of customers who were discussing with us their immediate requirements in the field of AM post-processing. What was so gratifying was that the solutions we presented are exactly what our industrial customers need, namely mature and functional systems that are precisely tailored to their respective requirements. To achieve this, AM Solutions – 3D post processing technology can draw on the 80-year know-how of the Rösler Group in the field of automated finishing solutions. We develop forward-looking solutions, but we don’t just want to be part of tomorrow’s world, we want to offer pragmatic and tangible solutions for all industry sectors today.”
With post-processing in some instances accounting for upwards of 50% of the unit cost of an AM part, the requirement for automated, precise, and repeatable post-processing solutions of often delicate parts is of huge importance, and is where AM Solutions – 3D post processing technology focuses all of its experience
Among a variety of solutions on show at Formnext, AM Solutions’ S1 Wet technology took centre stage. The S1 Wet is a versatile wet-blasting solution for cleaning and finishing surfaces. In the case of AM parts, wet blasting has been largely disregarded, yet it is a clean, reliable, and repeatable process. It consistently produces better surfaces than other processes and is ideal for parts created by direct metal laser melting (DMLS) or selective laser sintering (SLS). Powder residue adhering to AM workpieces is removed with the S1 Wet, even in hard-to-reach internal channels and on complex shapes. In the finishing area, the system delivers smooth surfaces in a precise and repeatable process.
The S1 Wet can process metal or plastic parts individually or in batches, has a small footprint and an integrated abrasive cleaning and recycling system to reuse abrasive. In addition, the process water is also recycled and the system can be run in manual, semi-automatic and fully automatic modes. Another enormous advantage is that wet blasting is not subject to ATEX regulations, as there are no dust explosion risks.
Also prominent on the stand at Formnext was AM Solutions’ C1 technology, a sophisticated solution for automated and cost-effective post-processing of photopolymer parts. The machine processes precise functional components, design objects with filigree structures, and complex prototypes just as effectively, and is significantly faster than any comparable system on the market.
Soldan says, “In the C1 system, a perfectly matched compound and the interplay of mechanical and thermal influences produce highly consistent, effective and gentle removal of support structures/resins. The standard processing recipes, which are already stored in the PLC, can be modified and stored again according to individual requirements. In addition, the C1 machine offers numerous functions to ensure optimum utilization of the compound and minimize operating costs.
These include a fill level monitoring system with fully automatic replenishment and an integrated saturation sensor. The key process parameters, such as temperature, throughput time and degree of contamination of the compound, are continuously recorded and stored in a data logger. This ensures that industrial requirements in terms of quality control and consistency of process results are fully met.”
In addition, AM Solutions also showcased its S2 system, a fully automatic post-processing solution for plastic parts produced using the powder bed process. Designed for 24/7 operation, the solution allows the output of several printers to be reworked simultaneously. Thanks to its unique part handling, the system is also suitable for very delicate parts and significantly reduces scrap, eliminating the cost of reprinting. The plastic parts to be processed are simply loaded into the S2, and the rest runs completely automatically.
A special loop belt enables individual part flow and particularly gentle workpiece handling, ensuring uniform cleaning, homogenization of the workpiece surface in continuous operation. The integrated abrasive recycling system guarantees consistently good processing results. The S2 also causes no discoloration of the parts, as the abrasive is conditioned and the loop belt is made of polyurethane. The integrated abrasive recycling system and the automatic monitoring of the blasting process ensure that a reproducible result of high quality is achieved in short cycle times, both for larger components and for delicate and filigree parts.
In addition to these trade show highlights, AM Solutions – 3D post processing technology also presented its S1 (a 2-in-1 solution for cleaning and surface finishing of polymer parts produced using the powder bed process), as well as the M1 Basic (a compact and cost-effective entry-level system ideal for smoothing and polishing metal or plastic parts using mass finishing technology). The current development status of the new C2 (a 2-in-1 system for chemical surface smoothing and colouring of AM plastic parts) was also presented.
Find out more about AM Solutions at solutions-for-am.com.
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