Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Volkmann’s Additive Manufacturing Material Handling System Recovers, Screens, Returns Materials in Metal 3D Printing

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Volkmann was founded in Germany in 1973, specializing in production automation consulting. Since then they have opened offices around the world, to include Great Britain, France, and the US. Volkmann, Inc. is headquartered in Bristol, PA, where the company focuses on providing customers in North America with vacuum conveying systems.

Now, Volkmann, Inc. will use its vacuum technology to improve additive manufacturing technology. Their Additive Manufacturing Material Handling System (AMMHAS) was highlighted at the RAPID + TCT exhibition in Pittsburgh earlier this month, allowing industrial customers to catch a glimpse of a new way to handle additive manufacturing processes and save on product waste when using potentially toxic materials or the metal powders which are so popular today. The company notes three operations the system offers to AM:

  • Recovery of any unused material
  • Screening of the material
  • Returning the material to the machine or a container for future use

Schematic showing raw material loading and return to use, as well as build box unloading

With AMMHAS, materials are either recycled back into the machine or saved for the next batch. Three different elements in AMMHAS are responsible for eliminating product waste, with the unit being made either in mobile or a permanent floor mounted assembly. Pneumatic vacuum technology allows AM materials to be moved from ‘pick-up locations’ to stations where they can be put back into use in the machine or emptied into containers.

“This high level of containment meets potential environmental issues, and addresses operator safety in all applications,” stated the Volkmann team.

VS350, VS250, VS200 conveyors within the Volkmann USA Pennsylvania test laboratory.

So far, AMMHAS has been used for processes including some of the following materials:

  • Tungsten
  • Cobalt
  • Silver powder
  • Iron
  • Stainless steel
  • Alumina
  • Nickel
  • Chrome
  • Copper
  • Chrono K20
  • Carbide dust
  • Corundum
  • G.62 with bulk densities ranging from 93 to 341 lbs/ft3

AMMHAS can be used with inert gas or an environment with natural air flow. For companies using inert gas, the unit employs a closed loop that saves and then recycles the gas, saving money and preventing waste. A specialized electric pump keeps temperature and ‘containment’ stabilized.

“We are very pleased to offer this system to the additive manufacturing industry,” noted Volkmann President Nick Hayes. “Having the ability to safeguard facilities with vacuum transfer of material as well as reclaim and reuse these expensive materials, gives the industry cost savings that make its end product even more viable.”

Volkmann Inc.’s  Bristol, PA facility has a large lab dedicated to testing conveyors and vacuum pumps on site, including their VS200, VS250, VS350 and VS450 receivers. They are able to test products for real-world use, with two 150-foot runs of 1½” and 2½” conveying lines.

Volkmann is known for the invention of multiple patented processes for vacuuming technology, to include Säuferbalken, which is generally used in mills for liquid recovery and vacuum stripping. They also created Multijector, an ejector pump which runs on compressed air. Find out more about Volkmann here. Discuss in the AMMHAS forum at 3DPB.com.

[Images: Volkmann]

 

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