Accumold’s 30-years of experience creating micro-sized parts is about to get maximized. The developer of very small complex parts recently received Fabrica Group’s latest micro precision additive manufacturing (AM) system, the Fabrica 2.0. Unveiled at the RAPID + TCT 2021 event, the innovative printing system enables an industry-wide drive towards miniaturization, with massive potential in micron-level resolution areas, including medical devices, micro-optics, semi-conductors, micro-electronics, and life sciences. For example, Accumold said the machine would be ideal for developing geometrical complex micro parts and mold tools – often called Direct Rapid Soft Tooling (DRST) – that were either impossible or prohibitively expensive to make using traditional micro injection molding processes.
A versatile technology appropriate for prototyping, small batches, and mass manufacturing, the Fabrica 2.0 is stimulating innovation in the micro-manufacturing sector. The technology was previously known as the Tera 250 and was created by Nanofabrica. This Israeli 3D printing manufacturer was acquired in early 2021 by Nano Dimension, a 3D printed electronics pioneer, and rebranded as Fabrica Group.
Driven by innovation in hardware, software, and materials, the technology is based on a Digital Light Processor (DLP) engine and can achieve repeatable micron levels resolution by combining DLP with patented adaptive optics. These adaptive optics can electronically control critical optical working point parameters such as focus, tilt, and astigmatism. In addition, it incorporates an optomechanical apparatus that facilitates real-time corrections of other working parameters — mainly location and accuracy in the XY plane — and which also corrects for degrees of freedom such as wobbling to allow for a better surface finish on parts. Thanks to its multi-resolution strategy, areas where fine details are required, are printed relatively slowly, but where the details are not so exacting, the part is printed at speeds between ten and 100 times faster. This feature makes the entire printing speed anything from five to 100 times faster than other micro-AM platforms.
According to Accumold CEO and President Roger Hargens, “the hugely impressive technology that Fabrica Group has developed will in short order add significant possibilities for our customers and us. With the Fabrica 2.0, we can already cater for customers requiring low to medium-sized runs economically, as the same economies of scale do not exist when using AM as opposed to traditional molding technologies.”
Although Fabrica 2.0 can be applied to the most exacting micro-manufacturing applications, Hargens sees tremendous future opportunities in the area of DRST. The executive believes the platform’s accuracy and the robustness of the materials used mean that the technology can produce DRSTs that can be used on traditional molding machines.
“This unlocks new business possibilities for us and our customers as up until this point we have been restricted to the use of long lead time and expensive traditionally manufactured mold tools for the achievement of any volume of molding, from prototype runs all the way through to mass manufacture. The Fabrica 2.0 stimulates the business case for a process chain that includes DRST, with the possibility of dramatically shorter lead times from file to injected part and at costs reduced from thousands of dollars to tens. This will be a game changer for some of our customers.”
Accumold’s hugely strategic investment in Fabrica’s AM technology reveals how many manufacturers use AM to compliment and work alongside more conventional manufacturing technologies. The Iowa high-tech manufacturer of precision micro, small, and lead frame injection molded plastic components routinely undertakes high volume production of tiny plastic parts and components (or larger parts with intricate features) for an international and pan-industrial customer base.
As one of the pioneering micro-molding manufacturers, the business continues to focus on industries that demand fast turnaround and small, complex parts such as microelectronics, automotive, fiber/optic, medical, and military, as well as emerging technologies and markets. Hargens said the new Fabrica 2.0 system was “just delivered” and that it is the first AM system for the company, which will “further reinforce our market-leading credentials in the micro-molding arena.”
“For many years, we have been keeping an eye on AM/industrial 3D printing to see how the technology may be of use to us and our customers, but until we were introduced to Fabrica Group, all commercially available technologies fell short in terms of precision and tolerance attainment and speed and repeatability.”
Through this acquisition, Accumold remains ahead of the curve when it comes to the evolution of new technologies and techniques. Moreover, adding AM as a complementary technology will enhance the agility and versatility that the company is looking for in its product development services.
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