Voxeljet has been experiencing a major growth trend lately, continuing to move up, onward, and all over the globe, and we’ve been following as earnings have continued on a positive note, along with exciting expansion into new areas like China.
The excitement continues on also as the German company receives the coveted ‘Component of the Year’ flagship award from the British Cast Metals Federation (CFM). This comes on the heels of their joint project with the Precision Casting Centre foundry as they collaborated in creating an optimized aluminum wheel upright that is 3D printed and five times stiffer than before, but maintains the same weight.
The two teams were obviously quite meticulous in working on this new upright as they ran both a life cycle analysis and casting simulation before attempting the 3D print. The project was prompted by a need for additional rigidity in the upright, but they were aware they would indeed have to do so without adding to the weight of the item.
Rigidity is important, according to the voxeljet team, as a component like this is exposed to stress and subjected to deformation under load, which could cause instability if not constructed properly–and thus, the need for additional stiffness. 3D printing allowed for greater improvement to the upright, as well as offering limitless ideas for new design–and better performance. Not only that, they added a rigidity that was five times greater than before.
“The design freedom of additive manufacturing processes, combined with simulation, allows us to come up with a new generation of designs that overcome the earlier conventional design limitations,” said Kevin Smith, Sales Director with voxeljet UK. “Because of this, the CMF jurors had a hard time at first believing that this complex Wheel Upright was an aluminum investment-cast part.”
Only because of the capabilities offered by voxeljet’s 3D printers were the two companies able to pull off fabrication of this new item, exhibiting cast part geometries with an unheard of level of complexity.
“Based on CAD data, voxeljet produces plastic models that are used for investment casting, as in the present case. The models are produced by applying a particle material in layers, which is selectively bonded with a binder,” states the voxeljet team. “The plastic PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate) is used as the material. The residual ash content remains very low when using this organic material. The models do not expand and demonstrate ideal burn-out characteristics. In addition, the printed parts can be handled like any conventional wax patterns. In addition to saving time and money, the 3D printing technology also enables complex geometries to be created, which cannot be produced with conventional manufacturing methods.”
Showing off their new process in allowing for superior performance combined with a maintained or lighter product weight, other companies involved were Altair, Click2Cast, and HBM nCode. The group was composed of numerous engineers who, due to digital and simulation design, along with 3D printing, were able to experience latitude in their design innovation. They used Altair’s ‘Inspire’ for optimizing the topology and nCode Designlife to simulate the component fatigue. Finally, Click2Cast software was used to simulate the casting process.
Just continuing to add to all of the positive activity and projects going on within voxeljet, they’ve also just launched a new service center, in the form of an on-demand facility in the UK meant for industrial 3D printing applications–with the help of three large-format printers that offer superior speed and each a build volume of 1,000 x 600 x 500 mm. The intention is to use this hardware to its full capabilities in making precise investment casting molds and models in just a few days.
“Our 3D printing systems are the biggest and fastest available today for investment casting,” says James Reeves, Managing Director of voxeljet UK. “They enable us to respond quickly, implement short processing times and still remain cost-efficient.”
The German 3D printing manufacture is broken up into two divisions, voxeljet SYSTEMS and voxeljet SERVICES, with headquarters in Germany, the UK, the US, and a recent push into Asia. They offer smaller to large-format industrial 3D printings, covering many required applications for their global customer base. Voxeljet SERVICES custom parts service centers are responsible for making sand molds and plastic models–on demand–and they are popular with small-batch and prototype manufacturers. What do you think of the way they produced this new part? Discuss in the voxeljet 3D Printed Wheel Upright forum over at 3DPB.com.