Machine makers add specialized capabilities to systems
Big players in the 3-D printer market are focusing on models with upgrades that enhance quality and offer specialized capabilities for materials processing.
ARBURG LAUNCHES FREEFORMER 300-3-X
Arburg’s new Freeformer 300-3X is an industrial 3-D printer that can build parts from multiple materials. The company unveiled it last month at Formnext in Frankfurt, Germany.
“For the first time worldwide, complex and resilient functional parts can be produced from three components in hard/soft combination with [a] support structure using this machine for industrial additive manufacturing — that’s unique in the industry,” said Lukas Pawelczyk, the head of worldwide Freeformer sales.
The Freeformer 300-3X can manufacture larger parts than the Freeformer 200-3X, which was released earlier. It opens new fields of application, the company said.
Freeformer printers melt resin in a plasticizing cylinder. A nozzle discharges tiny plastic droplets that are applied precisely by means of a moving part carrier, building up a part layer by layer. A key feature of the printers is that they can use the same resin pellets as injection molding machines and require no expensive special materials.
The number 300 in the Freeformer 300-3X model name designates the size of the build platform in square centimeters, or about 46.5 square inches. That is 50 percent larger than the build platform on the Freeformer 200-3X. With dimensions of 9.2 inches by 5.2 inches by 7.8 inches, the build chamber now offers space for larger small-volume batches and 50 percent wider parts.
The 3X in the name stands for the moving axes of the part carrier in the X, Y and Z directions.
The Freeformer 300-3X also includes a new, two-part build chamber door that enables the feed hoppers to be refilled during operation by opening only the top half of the door. The bottom half of the door, which accesses the heated build chamber, now needs to be opened only to insert the part platform and remove the finished parts.
The Freeformer 300-3X can work with a range of materials, including ABS, polyamide (PA) 10, PC, PP and specialty plastics designed for the medical and aerospace industries. Arburg said it is continuously expanding the range of materials.
STRATASYS OFFERS CARBON FIBER MODEL
In August, Stratasys began shipping its new Fortus 380mc Carbon Fiber Edition printer, which the company describes as an affordably priced additive manufacturing system for making parts with carbon-fiber-filled nylon 12. The printer sells for $70,000 in the U.S. The company sells other printers that can process carbon-fiber-filled composites, but they cost $200,000 to $350,000.
Stratasys introduced the lower-cost option in response to increased demand for composite 3-D printing across many industries. Carbon-fiber-filled composites can be used to make lighter-weight parts that, when used in vehicle manufacturing, make possible better fuel economy.
“Our customers are pushing us for easier access to carbon fiber,” Pat Carey, senior VP of sales, said in a prepared statement. “They’ve told us they want an affordable solution, but in a reliable, industrial-quality system.”
The company said the Fortus 380mc Carbon Fiber Edition printer is less expensive because it uses only carbon-fiber-filled nylon 12 and acrylonitrile styrene acrylate (ASA). Typically, printers that work with a wider variety of materials are more expensive.
The printer uses supports that dissolve in water, eliminating the need to remove the supports manually. This makes it possible to create intricate geometries that otherwise wouldn’t be possible because fine features could be destroyed during cleaning. It also could be too labor intensive to remove the support material.
Stratasys said target markets for the printer include manufacturers making tooling and fixtures, and those in the automotive, sporting equipment, marine, defense, aerospace, medical equipment, and oil and gas industries.
Applications for the printer using carbon-fiber-filled nylon 12 include prototyping of composite or metal parts, manufacturing short-run parts, producing lightweight assembly tools and replacing metal parts with high-strength composite ones.
The printer’s build chamber measures 14 inches by 12 inches by 12 inches, and the printer builds carbon-fiber-filled nylon 12 parts in 0.01-inch layer thicknesses. It creates ASA parts in several layer thicknesses ranging from 0.127mm to 0.33mm.
The printer measures 51 inches by 35.5 inches by 78.1 inches and weighs 1,325 pounds.
EOS UNVEILS NEW PRINTERS
At the Formnext additive manufacturing show last month in Frankfurt, EOS previewed its LaserProFusion technology, which it is touting as an alternative to injection molding. The company also recently introduced two selective-laser sintering (SLS) printers.
“With the LaserProFusion technology, we are achieving a new level of productivity in polymer industrial 3-D printing for serial manufacturing,” CTO Tobias Abeln said. “It is a technology that can be an alternative to injection molding in many applications.”
The process is about 10 times faster than that of existing SLS printers because, instead of one laser beam, it uses up to 1 million tiny, precisely focused laser beams to fuse the polymer powder, the company said. LaserProFusion will be commercially available worldwide in 2021, according to Moritz Kügler, EOS polymer product manager.
In June, the company unveiled its Formiga P 110 Velocis, based on the Formiga P 110 printer. The new model incorporates improvements that increase productivity by as much as 20 percent while ensuring more consistent part quality.
“It is our smallest plastic printer,” said Cary Baur, manager of applications development for polymers. “Generally, it is targeted to applications looking for high-quality prints that maybe aren’t on as large of an industrial manufacturing scale.”
The Formiga P 110 Velocis has numerous medical industry applications because it can produce fine features and high-quality surface finishes. It also can be used for producing prototypes.
“A lot of people will buy it as a platform to validate their business case before moving into one of our larger printers,” Baur said.
It also can be used for small production runs and for producing critical parts for the military, he said.
The company increased printing speed in the new model by installing an accelerated heating and recoating system and improving temperature distribution in the build chamber. The upgraded heating system includes new software that speeds the preheating of the polymer. After the polymer powder is applied to the construction platform as a thin layer, it is preheated faster and fused precisely with a laser beam, the company said. The platform is then lowered, and another layer of powder is applied. The process is repeated until the part is complete.
EOS said that the Formiga P 110 Velocis, like its predecessor systems, is well-suited for companies getting into industrial 3-D printing. It makes use of digital CAD data to produce delicate parts and has a build volume of 7.9 inches by 9.8 inches by 13 inches.
The printer works with 10 polymers, including a variety of PAs, alumide (a blend of PA and aluminum) and PS.
In April, EOS launched its EOS P 810 printer, which only processes the new HT-23, a polyetherketoneketone (PEKK) from Advanced Laser Materials LLC, Temple, Texas. HT-23 is reinforced with 23 percent carbon fiber, is chemically resistant, has a high melting point and is inherently flame-retardant. HT-23 was developed in cooperation with Boeing for use in the aerospace industry, although it could also be used in other industries.
Additive manufacturing offers benefits to the aviation industry because it enables the design and manufacture of complex geometries without expensive tooling, according to EOS.
“This is allowing us to target a lot of applications that were traditionally metal dominated — a lot of brackets, piping and ductwork that must meet specifications in the aerospace world,” Baur said. “Previously, polymers weren’t chemically or thermally resistant enough to approach this application.”
The electronics and transportation industries also could benefit from the combination of HT-23 and the EOS P 810 printer. A part built from HT-23 typically weighs 30 percent less than a comparable metal part, he said. However, using additive manufacturing, parts could be redesigned to hollow out sections or use a lattice design, which could reduce part weight by about 70 percent.
The EOS P 810 offers a build volume of about 27.6 inches by 15 inches by 15 inches. It uses two 70-watt lasers to produce large structural parts with excellent dimensional accuracy, the company said.
Bruce Geiselman, senior staff reporter
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