European Initiative Pushes Hybrid Additive Manufacturing

Hyproline combines 3D printing, scanning and laser ablation in one machine.

How does additive manufacturing (AM) fit into manufacturing?

It’s a controversial subject: some suggest that the 3D printing hype has peaked, while others argue that 3D printing and manufacturing go hand-in-hand. For now, the role of 3D printing in manufacturing is still unclear, although there does seem to be a growing consensus that hybrid additive manufacturing technology will become more common. 

“Hyproline” is the latest example:

(Video courtesy of TNO.)

The European Union (EU) has successfully concluded the Hyproline additive manufacturing initiative and the results are impressive to say the least. The initiative’s goal was to build a working demonstration of a high-performance AM production line for small metal parts.


A High-Performance AM Production Line

The researchers who took part in the initiative focused on three metals:

  • Stainless Steel 316L
  • Titanium
  • Copper

They concentrated on the serial production of customized parts on the order of 10 mm (0.39”) with a target volume of 10,000 parts per day.

Hyproline schematic. (Image courtesy of NTO.)

Hyproline schematic. (Image courtesy of TNO.)

Hyproline consists of a carousel and integrated robot, with each product situated on a removable pallet. The robot picks and places non-finished parts and also extracts finished products from the line via their pallets. Modules can be added to this setup for each production process.

The pallets rapidly pass underneath a 3D printer on a fixed Z-axis, which can print a different part on each pallet. The pallets themselves supply the Z-axis movement by adjusting their heights individually.

A laser scanner mounted above the carousel can perform 3D measurements of the parts, with software comparing 3D-printed parts to their respective CAD files. A laser ablation module, similarly positioned, is programmed to polish the part and remove any excess material identified by the scanner.

One of the challenges the researchers faced with this setup was increasing the overall quality of 3D-printed metal parts.

Overcoming this challenge involved using CADfix to process inline 3D scanning and laser ablation with real-time point cloud capture and 3D comparison. Using this information, the software was able to generate customized laser tool-paths for the continuously running production line.


Could Rapid AM Revive European Manufacturing?

The Hyproline initiative was coordinated by the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) and its participants included fcubic AB, Swerea IVF, the Centre for Concepts in Mechatronics (CCM), ITI Transcendata Europe and the University of Birmingham.

The initiative’s primary objectives were:

  1. To reduce time-to-market and number of rejects
  2. To make more customized and innovative products with a higher market value
  3. To make products more than 20 percent more accurate with more than 30 percent savings in consumption of waste metal, fluids and services, with an equivalent reduction of CO2

It began as a result of an EU Factories of the Future Program grant awarded in fall 2012. Formal work on the initiative concluded in August 2015.

Now that the initiative is finished, the Hyproline platform could enhance the competitive position of Europe’s small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

“This endeavor was truly ground-breaking because of the high speed of laser polishing of the metal parts, combined with 3D scanning to produce multiple, unique parts in the same run on the same production line,” said Mark Gamon, product manager at ITI.

For more information, visit the Hyproline website.