Most 3D printing processes come with their own post-processing requirements, and those for metal powder bed additive manufacturing can be especially involved. Not only do supports have to be removed, which is often a difficult and time-consuming process, but excess powder has to be removed as well, and that’s not as easy as it sounds, especially when the parts are designed with channels and gaps that powder can get trapped in. For safety reasons, it’s best not to handle metal powder directly, either, so it’s important that all loose powder is removed before the part is put into use.
Solukon Maschinenbau GmbH has developed a line of powder removal systems that it will be introducing at formnext. The automated systems remove excess powder by rotating and vibrating the 3D printed parts, releasing any trapped granules from within the part.
“Metal AM systems have grown in their capabilities and the breadth of application in recent years, but peripheral processes to speed up the industrialization of these technologies has been lagging,” said Solukon Co-Founder Andreas Hartmann. “Studies by leading users of AM indicate that more than 70% of the costs of producing metal parts is attributed to pre- and post processes. Solukon’s mission is to automate and simplify the additive process, and by so doing to expand the industrial viability of these technologies…Solukon systems have been designed to maximize the reclaiming of unused powder through processes that minimize the need for manual intervention.”
The systems are offered in two sizes, and each size comes in two versions. SFM-AT800 is the larger size, capable of processing parts with dimensions of up to 500 x 500 x 500 mm and weighing up to 300 kg. In 2018, it will be made bigger, capable of processing parts of up to 800 x 400 x 500 mm. The SFM-AT300 can process parts of up to 300 x 300 x 350 mm and weights of up to 60 kg.
The systems are each available in a standard version, for the removal of hazardous dust by extraction, and an inert gas version, which is designed for the removal of powders with high explosive risk such as titanium and aluminum. Both systems are ATEX certified thanks to their sealed cleaning processes and safety-monitored infusion of inert protective gas.
How it works is that the 3D printed part, still on its build plate, is attached to the machine’s processing table. The table then rotates the parts in a predetermined path to release powder from around and within the part, including from internal channels and complex configurations such as heat sinks and heat exchangers. Simultaneously, a controlled variable-frequency vibration device releases the more stubborn and compacted powder. The excess powder is then collected for re-use in a special container or an external sieving device.
The rotating device for the SFM-AT800 operates in two axes and features an automatically opening roof for crane loading of heavy parts. The rotating device for the SFM-AT300 operates in a single axis.
The Solukon systems are suitable for use with parts for all metal 3D printers on the market, and are fast and economical, with time saving of up to 90%. They’re designed to be sturdy and easy to maintain, and allow powder to be removed and collected safely.
“Customers tell us that they want to reduce the costs and simplify the process of part manufacture, and manage the occupational and environmental risks of metal additive manufacturing,” said Co-Founder Dominik Schmid. “Our systems set new standards in the industry for the achievement of these goals.”
Formnext is taking place from November 14-17 in Frankfurt, Germany. Solukon will be at Booth C78 in Hall 3.0 with its new powder removal systems. 3DPrint.com will be on the scene, reporting the latest from Frankfurt.
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