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New dimensions explored at Formnext


Photo by Fraunhofer ILT By melting at room temperature, the additively manufactured plastic components are released from the frozen blocks.

The additive manufacturing trade show Formnext, currently underway in Frankfurt, Germany, has already on its second day been the showcase for a number of breakthrough developments in the world of additive manufacturing this year.

Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT), announced at the show that it had taken its “TwoCure” process to the next level by developing it into an industry-ready machine technology.

The Aachen, Germany-based organisation, said the new technique uses resin-based 3D printing to produce large numbers of plastic components without support structures in an automated process.

The process involves applying liquid resin layer by layer to previously solidified resin. Based on a similar principle as a projector, a LED light unit projects the component’s layered geometry into a liquid resin bath and the polymer hardens in the areas that are illuminated.

The other areas of resin solidify through cooling, leaving the cured structures floating freely without supports within the total volume.

According to Fraunhofer ILT, the developers rely on an interplay of light and cold, curing the component chemically by means of light and solidifying the surrounding material thermally by means of cold.

This enables the entire 3D build volume to be used for printing, rather than just the machine’s build platform, Fraunhofer added.

German additive manufacturing leader, EOS GmbH, has presented its latest solution, LaserProFusion, at the show, unveiling what it’s called a “revolutionary technology for polymer additive manufacturing”.

With nearly one million diode lasers melting the material, building up the part layer by layer, the process is billed by EOS as an “injection moulding alternative” in terms of productivity.

The lasers can achieve a maximum total output of up to 5 kilowatts.

For each layer, only the diode lasers are activated that match the CAD data of the part – right down to the exact pixel.

Raptor 84XQ

Next industrial level

German supplier LSS Laser-Sinter-Service GmbH launched its Raptor series at the show, saying it would take additive manufacturing (AM) to “the next industrial level”.

The company, which is emerging as a leader in the field of laser-based powder bed fusion of polymers, said the new Raptor 84X-Q design afforded "unmatched modularity" and provided “game-changing performance and significant reduction of costs per part, especially for high performance polymers.”

Featuring a build envelope of 800x400x480mm3, the machine is claimed by LSS to be the “world’s first” polymer laser sintering platform equipped with a quad laser/scanner system. This allows for high production rates at levels “never been seen before”.

Additionally, a dual laser/scanner model will be available as Raptor 84X-D model.

The Raptor 22X-S is the brand’s high temperature entry-level alternative, with a build envelope of 250x250x300mm3.

Both models will be available in a “TM” version, featuring the new, patented Airbus ThermoMelt process for high-performance industrial parts.

The ThermoMelt technology is said to reduce sintering temperatures, lowering the cost of production with high-performance polymers.

In the past, the use of high-performance polymers required high process temperatures, which generated significant thermal aging of the polymer and made reusing high-cost materials such as polyetherketoneketone (PEKK), polyphthalamide (PPA) and polyphenylene sulphide (PPS) almost impossible. Due to the lower temperatures on the Raptor TM series, thermal aging is far less of an issue, making it possible in many cases for these polymers to be recycled.

“The combination of modularity, highest productivity and the new ThermoMeltTM process enables LSS to take the next big step in becoming a leading solution provider for industrial additive manufacturing,” said LSS 14 Nov.

Arkema, LSS partnership

In addition to the hardware launch, LSS also announced a partnership with Arkema SA for the supply of industrial materials for electrical & electronics AM applications.

The company said it had selected Kepstan polyetherketoneketone (PEKK) polymer from Arkema as the material of choice to use with its new series of Raptor TM 3D printing machines.

LSS is using a halogen-free grade of Kepstan PEKK suitable for selective laser sintering (SLS).

Kepstan PEKK has high thermo-mechanical properties as well as strong resistance to chemicals and fire (low flame, smoke and toxicity). This, according to LSS, makes the material ideal for the development of AM industrial applications for the electrical & electronics industry.

New elastomer product

US-based Stratasys has also unveiled new elastomer products for 3D printing during the Frankfurt show.

A thermoplastic polyurethane material, TPU 92A, introduced by Stratasys has been developed for use in fused deposition moulding (FDM) and PolyJet machines, enabling “new levels” of elasticity, durability and advanced colours in addition to hands-free soluble support.

The material, said Stratasys, can significantly reduce both production time and labour costs, compared to elastomer parts produced using traditional silicone or CNC moulds, which are extremely costly and time-consuming.

Further advancing realism for 3D printed prototypes, Stratasys also announced a range of new materials for its J750 and J735 PolyJet 3D Printers. These include five new “highly-realistic” materials with the ability to mimic rubber, leather or plastic.

Start-up Challenge

Formnext also held its annual start-up challenge this year, with 3D Fortify, Aerosint, AMendate, Kumovis and Nanogrande named as the five winners to be given a sponsoring package and a free stand at the show.