Automation is pretty important in terms of mass producing 3D printed components, and one AM company that’s all about automation is Sweden-based Digital Metal, a subsidiary of the Höganäs Group—the largest producer of metal powders in the world. The company’s proprietary binder jet 3D printing makes it possible to produce complex objects, with superior surface finish and accuracy, for industrial use, and ever since Digital Metal introduced its high-precision DM P2500 metal binder jetting system a few years ago, it’s been working to evolve automation of the technology. Now, the company has announced an automated depowdering station for metal binder jet printing; even more exciting, one of the first customers for this hardware is the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Additive Manufacturing Technologies (Fraunhofer IAPT).
We’ve seen depowdering for metal SLM and metal powder bed fusion, but Digital Metal say it’s developed the world’s first commercial automated depowdering station for metal binder jetting in its new DPS 1000.
Alexander Sakratidis, Sales and Marketing Manager at Digital Metal, said in a press release, “A key benefit of the DPS 1000 for Digital Metal customers is that it will free up time, and also bring consistency by removing the human factor from the equation.”
Depowdering is an important cost-saving measure in powder 3D printing, but it also makes the machine safer, so channels aren’t blocked during heat treatment. When the process is automated, it also frees up human operators to complete other tasks, which in the long run speeds up the overall production process. Dr. Philipp Imgrund, Head of the AM Processes Department at Fraunhofer IAPT, believes that automated depowdering is a crucial part of industrializing additive manufacturing.
“Metal Binder Jetting will enhance productivity and precision while at the same time reducing costs of metal additive manufacturing, which opens the door for series production. However, one major technical challenge is depowdering of the green parts and we see a huge potential in working on automation solutions in this context,” Dr. Imgrund explained.
“To date manual depowdering and cleaning have taken up most of the work hours in the binder jetting process. Automating this step makes the whole AM process cost efficient while ensuring more consistent part quality.”
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has been the top European application-oriented research organization for more than 70 years, and the specific focus of Fraunhofer IAPT—the 70th Fraunhofer institute—is industrializing AM technologies in order to develop more resource-efficient products. Fraunhofer IAPT was impressed with, and decided to invest in, Digital Metal’s DPS 1000, in addition to a complete 3D printing system, because of its impressive capacity for precise metal powder removal from most geometries of 3D printed parts.
“With this system we can easily test multiply different powders to enhance the print quality and make more precise predictions on the shrinking of the sintering process. It convinces with its precision, and even very delicate structures can be printed,” Dr. Imgrund explained.
The DPS 1000, which can be used with Digital Metal’s DM P2500 metal binder jet printer in addition to other systems, has an additional manual cleaning option that can be used after the initial program has removed most of the metal powder. The company says this secondary process can clean powder out of even the most complex geometries.
Additionally, Fraunhofer IAPT appreciates how well the Digital Metal 3D printer, and the new automated depowdering system, fits its mission to industrialize metal 3D printing.
“We also appreciate the collegial and professional atmosphere when working with Digital Metal,” Dr. Imgrund concluded. “It makes it easy to find common ground for innovative projects.”
(Source/Images: Digital Metal)
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