Swedish Digital Metal company has introduced a concept for complete automation of metallic 3D printing, piquing the interests of aerospace and automotive manufacture alike.
In a public press release the company explains how the automated, “no hands” assembly process works. 3D printing has always been held back by a lack of automation and inability to print more durable metallic objects. Now Digital Metal has found a way to traverse both of these obstacles at least as far as industrial scale manufacturing is concerned.
In the quote below he refers to “additive manufacturing” (AM) which is another word for large scale 3D printing.
“Most AM technologies show a very low level of automation. Our aim is to change that. With the new no-hand production line, our customers can further improve their productivity and lower the production costs. Almost all manually intensive work can be eliminated and in addition the powders removed in the cleaning machine can be recirculated in the process, thus minimizing waste. As we see it, the Digital Metal technology is now applicable for serial production of high-volume components.”
In this automated mix of a 3D printer and assembly line robotic arms supply every 3d printer with what they call a “build box”. 3D printers extrude metal powder on to this build box, essentially building the product up in layers that are conjoined by a separate binding agent.
After printing, the part is transported by another robotic arm to a machine for depowdering and post-treatment. In this stage all excess powder is blown off and recycled without degenerating any of it’s fundamental properties. Afterwards the part is placed on a sintering plate where it is then transported to a furnace for the final hardening stage. This is similar to how a soft clay mould can be cooked over a fire to create pottery or clay bricks.
Also, in that last step each part undergoes debinding and sintering at the same time, another unique innovation.
“We believe there is a huge potential for our unique technology. Not only is it very fast and cost-effective, it is also able to create complicated and highly detailed designs with wide material choice.”