Industrial 3D Printing Evolves at formnext 2017
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on November 22, 2017 | 3826 views

This year’s formnext was the largest yet, with 21,492 attendees, a 60 percent increase from last year. Formed as the result of a break from the Euromold conference, the event is just three years old and already is showcasing massive growth in additive manufacturing (AM).

formnext featured manufacturing giants the likes of GE and HP, which also demonstrated a growth in AM and the trade show. Those large manufacturers may have been two of the biggest names in attendance, but their announcements represented just a small part of what was a news-filled conference. Here, we break down some of the other noteworthy stories from formnext 2017.

Additive Industries

Though a new company, Additive Industries has been on top of the production trend since its inception, launching its MetalFAB1 3D printer with throughput and automation in mind. At formnext, it took this process a step further, announcing not just a new module and software for the printer, but also a partnership with the machine and plant building SMS Group to develop a production system for industrial-scale 3D printing.

The MetalFAB1 with Product Removal Module. (Image courtesy of Additive Industries.)
The MetalFAB1 with Product Removal Module. (Image courtesy of Additive Industries.)

The Product Removal Module is able to remove a printed part from its build plate, release any trapped powder, and then refinish the build plate with a three-axis mill. The Dynamic Laser Allocation software controls four lasers to print a single part in unison or multiple parts, using an algorithm to optimize laser allocation.

The Scale4Series being developed by Additive Industries and SMS Group’s take on the factory of the future concept (also seen with GE Additive/Concept Laser and 3D Systems). The concept incorporates not just 3D printing, but every stage of the fabrication process from powder production to the delivery of the finished part.

The Scale4Series is Additive Industries’ version of the factory of the future, in which parts can be printed and post-processed automatically. It stands out with powder manufacturing on site. (Image courtesy of Additive Industries.)
The Scale4Series is Additive Industries’ version of the factory of the future, in which parts can be printed and post-processed automatically. It stands out with powder manufacturing on site. (Image courtesy of Additive Industries.)

First, powders are produced via an induction-melting and atomization process. The powder is delivered to a series of MetalFAB1 systems, which print the parts before the build plates are automatically moved to heat treatment furnaces for stress relief. The parts are then stored by a robot.

Along with the powder atomizer, multiple MetalFAB1 systems, and HIP furnaces, the Scale4Series includes CT scanners and five-axis CNC machines. The goal is to create a completely autonomous 24/7 factory.

The project will take advantage of SMS Group’s expertise in manufacturing and marketing. Heat treatment, for instance, is being developed by SMS Elotherm, which will also be able to tap the automotive industry for the technology. An industrial-scale pilot system is set to go live at SMS’ powder production facilities by the end of the year. By 2022, Additive Industries aims to be among the top three metal 3D printer manufacturers.

Arconic and Airbus

Just after ENGINEERING.com wrapped an interview with the aerospace manufacturer, Arconic announced a partnership with Airbus to create custom processes and parameters for 3D printing large-scale metal parts, including spars and rib structures, up to three feet in length.  The technology is claimed to print parts 100 times faster than other, smaller metal printing systems. The company will also leverage its Ampliforge process, which treats 3D-printed parts using additional manufacturing technology, such as forging, to make them tougher and stronger.

This is just the latest in the partnership between Arconic and Airbus. To learn more, read our interview with Arconic.

Stratasys

In addition to news of its simulation partnership, Stratasys announced the introduction of new software for its PolyJet technology, which offers unique full-color and multi-material 3D printing. Dubbed GrabCAD Voxel Print, the software is meant to provide greater control over the photopolymers within the J750 3D printer. The software is able to alter the concentration, structures and color mapping of the 3D-printed material at the voxel (3D pixel) level.


EOS

EOS brought a new polymer selective laser sintering (SLS) machine, the EOS P 500, as well as new software for its 3D printers. The EOS P 500 is designed for mass producing engineering-grade polymer parts that require melting temperatures of up to 300°C. This includes strong and heat resistant polyetherketoneketone (PEKK), which it is developing with Arkema. For more on the PEKK family of plastics, read our in-depth article.

The system features two lasers and a new recoater, and produces objects twice as quickly as the EOS P 396, which the company claims is the fastest SLS machine on the market. This is in part due to the decreased layer times, made possible by preheating the plastic ahead of printing. Additional features include a “streamlined build process,” a three-stage filter, data evaluation, and optical and thermal cameras.

To facilitate the use of its printers in a production setting, EOS has developed a series of software tools, including EOSPRINT for quality control and EOSCONNECT for networking machines and collecting production data. This is part of the larger EOSTATE suite for machine monitoring.

SLM Solutions

SLM Solutions stepped into the heavyweight metal 3D printing ring with the SLM 800 system, which features a massive build envelope of 500 mm x 280 mm x 850mm and four 700W lasers. The machine is designed to be scalable with a fully automated handling station, which can automate unpacking, preheating, cool down, powder removal and transfer.

The SLM 800 is smaller than GE Additive’s A.T.L.A.S. and X LINE 2000R, as well as 3D Systems newly announced DMP 8500. Nonetheless, the new machine reflects both the larger trend of mass production in 3D printing and SLM Solutions’ intention to stay on top of that trend. To help in this endeavor, the company has raised about EUR€60 million from international investors.

Trumpf

Machining and tooling equipment manufacturer Trumpf showcased the triple-laser TruPrint 5000 3D printer. The company claims that it is the fastest metal laser powder bed system on the market. In addition to increased productivity from additional lasers, the TruPrint 5000 has reduced exposure time by three times.

Trumpf has also gotten into the automation game, showcasing integrated robotics at formnext, which could move parts from the print chamber to the unpacking station.

Xact Metal

As promised in our interview with the company earlier in 2017, Xact Metal revealed a new midsize 3D printer, the XM300. With a build volume of 254 mm x 330 mm x 330 mm, the system maintains the low-cost Xact Core technology of the startup’s first machine, but with a larger build volume. The price tag won’t be so low-cost, however. Expected to retail at $400,000–$600,000, the XM300 has a price comparable to other machines at that volume.

OR Laser

OR Laser also added a new machine to its fledgling lineup: the ORLAS CREATOR hybrid. The system adds three-axis milling to the original ORLAS CREATOR. This means that contours, undercuts and cooling channels are now a possibility with the system, as well as part finishing every five to 10layers.

There were plenty more announcements aside from these—too many to cover here. To learn about news from HP, XJet, 3D Systems, XYZprinting and Mimaki, click the links. We also covered many of the materials unveiled at formnext here.


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