VSHAPER is expanding on its history as a maker of fused filament fabrication (FFF) systems with more axes and production capabilities. Polish 3D printer manufacturer VSHAPER has announced the upcoming release of its latest system, a five-axis hybrid 3D printer dubbed 5AX.
The 5AX attempts to address FFF/FDM’s notorious anisotropic tensile strength problem by adding more axes to FFF. Because traditional FFF technology deposits molten thermoplastic layer by layer, the vertical (or ‘Z’) axis is weaker than X and Y. Whereas the continuous line of filament is chemically bonded, interlayer bonds are merely melted together, making them weaker overall.
5AX aims to overcome this by allowing the print head to print on five axes, allowing this continuous chemical bond to move in every direction, not just the horizontal X- and Y-axes. To do so, the printer uses a spinning and tilting print platform and five-axis kinematics. In addition to potentially overcoming anisotropy to a great extent, this setup removes the need for support structures, thus reducing material waste and post-processing. You can see how this works in the 5AX research footage below:
According to the company, the VSHAPER 5AX will also feature six different toolheads that can be swapped out automatically. These include a dual direct feeding extruder purportedly capable of printing multiple materials from a single printhead, as well as a finishing tool for milling, drilling and burnishing. VSHAPER has also developed a probing tool for measurement, quality control and preparing for milling and drilling operations.
The 5AX is obviously a unique addition to VSHAPER’s existing FFF portfolio. The company is one of a handful of manufacturers of lower cost FFF machines capable of 3D printing with high performance materials, such as the PAEK family of plastics.
Unlike the metal hybrid manufacturing space, the five-axis polymer 3D printing segment has been slower to grow. There are only a few five-axis polymer machines on the market, as far as we are aware. The most notable may be the Freeformer system from Arburg. The injection molding (IM) machine manufacturer has developed a system to 3D print with traditional IM pellets, which are less expensive and more diverse than filaments, using a piezoelectric-driven screw.
Ethereal Machines won an Innovation Award at CES in 2018 for its 5-axis hybrid manufacturing system. After a successful Kickstarter in 2014, 5axismaker is still selling 5-axis hybrid 3D printer kits. The space is still a very small one, so there will surely be others. It’s easy to imagine FFF extrusion modules incorporated into existing five-axis machining equipment. It remains too early to tell just how disruptive this technology will be to the 3D printing space.
VSHAPER first debuted its 5AX prototype at formnext in 2017 and is just now completing work on the machine. The system features a cylindrical workspace of 300mm in diameter by 300mm in height and a heated table. The release date for the 5AX is scheduled for May 26, 2020, but the price has not yet been disclosed. Users can register for the release at the 5AX website.
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