New developments from AM Solutions - 3D post processing technology
With David Soldan a long-standing Rösler colleague has become the new Head of AM Solutions – 3D post processing technology. David began his professional career at Rösler in 2001. Since then he held various positions. During the past nine years he was a highly successful team leader in the mass finishing sales department. Early on in this position he became quickly acquainted with additive manufacturing. David comments: „Right from the beginning it was obvious that the mass finishing technology will play an important role in the automated post processing of 3D printed components. But at the same time we recognized that our finishing solutions for products made with conventional manufacturing methods could frequently not meet the specific challenges posed by additive manufacturing. For this reason we founded our new AM Solutions division. Naturally, I was pleased to assume overall responsibility for R & D, engineering, sales and the technology center of AM Solutions – 3D post processing technology”. David’s enthusiasm is understandable. The AM market is undergoing an extremely dynamic development. And due to the transition from rapid prototyping methods to technologies for volume production the demand for automated post processing solutions is rapidly growing. With new developments, such as the innovative S2 system, AM Solutions plays a key role in this quickly evolving market. For some time this worldwide first continuous flow shot blast machine, designed for 24/7 volume production, has been in operation at various Beta partners. Many customers quickly recognized that the actual 3D printing step alone is not sufficient. To be able to supply ready-to-install plastic and metal components, a suitable post processing operation is indispensable. This knowledge caused the Klaus Stöcker metal processing job shop to invest in our post processing systems S1 and M1 Basic. In addition, we will reveal which other machines will be in the spotlight at the upcoming Formnext show in November.
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Head of AM Solutions – 3D post processing technology
Special mass finishing operation yields a significant competitive edge
With around 40 employees the Klaus Stöcker metal processing founded in 1990, offers a wide range of services in the field of machining. This includes turning, milling, sinking and wire EDM, face and circular grinding, assembly and measuring with state-of-the-art machinery. The company also fabricates its own tooling, fixtures, gauges and special machinery. It serves customers in the automotive, pharmaceutical, food and machinery building industry. In 2016 Stöcker began offering 3D printed plastic and metal parts and since then has installed 16 printers. The company is producing components made from different types of plastic, including PA 6 and PA 12, but also materials re-enforced with glass, carbon and Kevlar fiber with the FDM/FFF and SLS printing methods. The stereolithographic system (SLA/PJM) is primarily used for printing optical components with different technical characteristics and in different colors. Selective laser melting (SLM) and atomic diffusion additive manufacturing (ADAM) are used to make metal components from aluminum alloys, different types of stainless steel and various tool steels.
Automated post processing – an important part of the manufacturing process
Stöcker quickly realized that as job shop it can only be successful, if it offers services within the entire process chain, not just the printing operation. The manager of additive manufacturing at Stöcker, Arnd Meller, explains: „On the one hand, this includes a comprehensive consultation with our customers to determine if a component can be made with additive manufacturing and, if yes, which design changes are required, and which printing technology and material is most suitable. On the other hand, post processing is an important operation that allows us supplying ready-to-install components to our customers.” In the beginning the post processing operation took place manually with tools that were available internally. For example, laser-sintered plastic parts were cleaned in a manual blast cabinet. However, the rapidly growing demand and stricter requirements for process stability and consistency of the post processing operation could no longer be handled with conventional methods. Therefore, the company started looking for automated solutions. Important considerations were the product quality, the operational safety, the total cost of ownership (TCO) and ease of operation. Arnd Meller continues: „In the end it was the excellent expert advice and comprehensive experience in surface treatment that made us decide to purchase our post processing equipment from AM Solutions – 3D post processing technology. In addition, I was really impressed by the manufacturing depth of AM Solutions/Rösler at their site in Untermerzbach“. Initially, cleaning of the components with the S1 system was the only subject of the discussions. For the surface refinement of its 3D printed components the company was pursuing different solutions, for example, chemical smoothing.
Mass finishing – a cost-efficient alternative to chemical smoothing
However, during a visit at the Customer Experience Center of AM Solutions – 3D post processing technology Arnd Meller was really surprised to learn that the M1 Basic produces excellent results within relatively short cycle times. Surface smoothing and homogenization of plastic components, including lower surface roughness readings, are demanded by many customers. With the M1 Basic AM Solutions can offer a system that fulfills these demands quickly with absolutely repeatable results and with a high degree of process stability. Arnd Meller concludes: „For many components the mass finishing technology represents an excellent alternative to chemical smoothing. The smoothing process is significantly more cost-effective providing us with a considerable competitive advantage. No doubt, the expert knowledge of AM Solutions, based on Rösler’s comprehensive expertise in mass finishing technologies and the development and production of suitable media, also plays an important role.”
The M1 Basic is a compact plug-and-play finishing system with integrated process controls that allows the surface grinding, smoothing and polishing of 3D printed plastic and metal components. Equipped with an integrated process water cleaning and recycling system and a 230 Volt connection, the M1 Basic can be easily integrated into practically any production environment as stand-alone unit. It allows the finishing of entire work piece batches or single components with dimensions of up 550 x 150 x 130 mm (L X W X H) and with different shapes. This innovative system can be easily adapted to all kinds of finishing tasks. Work piece specific programs can be stored in the equipment controls. The standard processing bowl can be divided into two separate chambers. This allows the simultaneous finishing of different work pieces with different finishing processes.
The use of the M1 Basic in the AM department at Stöcker proved to be so successful that the company purchased a second machine for the surface finishing of metal, beside their existing installation of a S1 for the de-powdering of 3D printed parts.
Beta version of the globally first continuous feed shot blast machine for 3D printed plastic components
Ideally, customers want to place a complete printing job with raw plastic components of different sizes into a machine, select the suitable PLC program and have the work pieces cleaned and finished in a fully automatic operation. That is exactly what the new S2 shot blast machine is intended to do. Therefore, this machine encountered considerable interest at last year’s Formnext. The innovative design of the globally first continuous feed shot blast machine for cleaning polymer components in a three-shift operation requires very little work by the operator. The S2 can handle a wide range of work pieces made with SLS, MJF, SAF or HSS printing systems. The standard version of the S2 is equipped with intelligent controls that allow the direct communication with preceding and subsequent manufacturing operations through integrated interfaces. A specially developed looped belt ensures the consistent and gentle cleaning of the components and their transport through the shot blast machine, irrespective of size and shape. Depending on the utilized blast media the work pieces are not only de-powdered but their surface is also smoothed and homogenized, a significant additional benefit. The integrated blast media recycling and cleaning system guarantees not only excellent process stability but also a consistently high media quality.
First real-life manufacturing experience at Beta partners
After completion of the comprehensive internal validation process the first S2 systems have been in operation at selected Beta partners in five European countries since the beginning of May. These include three leading service companies in the field of additive manufacturing, a well-known supplier of consumer goods and a large printer manufacturer. While the components produced by these companies are quite different, they are all produced in high volumes. Such a manufacturing environment represents a real test for the S2 shot blast system. In addition, it allows to cover all kinds of post processing tasks for components printed with powder bed systems. This helps not only to collect valuable experience with a broad range of applications. But it can also be the basis for further innovative developments at AM Solutions. Another S2 machine is in the Customer Experience Center (CEC) at AM Solutions – 3D post processing technology. This allows existing and prospective customers to run processing trials with their individual work pieces and to familiarize themselves with the entire AM Solutions machine range for post processing of 3D printed components.
AM SOLUTIONS BRINGS POST-PROCESSING INTO THE SPOTLIGHT AT FORMNEXT 2022
AM Solutions is gearing up for the next edition of Formnext to be held 15-19 November in Frankfurt. On booth C81 in Hall 12.0, AM Solutions – 3D post processing technology will be showing its impressive range of AM specific post-processing solutions, all designed and manufactured by a company with an 80-year pedigree in producing finishing technologies for traditional manufacturing, and all designed with the particular characteristics of AM parts in mind.
From the full AM Solutions’ range, visitors at Formnext will be able to see technologies providing a range of post-processing operations for plastic, metal, and resin AM parts.
- Including will be the company’s M1 Basic (compact entry-level system ideal for the surface smoothing and polishing of metal or plastic AM parts);
- the S1 (2-in-1 solution for cleaning and surface finishing of polymer parts produced in AM powder-bed systems);
- the S1 Wet (a versatile wet blast solution designed for cleaning and surface finishing of metal AM parts);
- the S2 (promoting the uniform cleaning, surface homogenisation and / or peening in continuous mode operation of plastic parts produced in AM powder-bed systems);
- and the C1 (providing fully automatic support and resin removal from photopolymer parts).
- In addition, we will give an update around the development status of our C2, a 2-in-1 system for chemical surface smoothing of and dye application to plastic AM parts.
Daniel Hund, Head of Marketing at Rösler / AM Solutions says, “In our portfolio, we have perhaps the most impressive range of AM post-processing equipment to be found anywhere, and we are able to provide various post-processing technologies for the full range of AM produced materials. Some of our technologies are specific to resin, plastic, or metal AM parts, but some have the ability to post-process both metal and plastic parts, providing not just amazingly accurate and repeatable post-processing, but also cost-effective post-processing. By taking a substantially sized stand at the market-leading Formnext event, we once again demonstrate our dedication to the AM sector, and our continued commitment to address the unique post-processing issues related to the technology, thereby playing our part in the continued growth in uptake of AM across all industry sectors. AM is not only an agile and innovative manufacturing process, with the ability to produce parts impossible using traditional manufacturing processes, but it also has the ability to democratise and localise manufacturing, to promote digital inventory, and to have a substantial and positive environmental benefit. Because of this, AM Solutions fully supports its industry-wide uptake.”
It is with the continued growth in AM as a production technology (not simply a prototyping technology) that there is greater scrutiny on the validation of surface finish, conformance with design intent, and the attainment of exacting tolerances repeatably. AM parts and components can exhibit extraordinary geometric and internal channel complexity, which while great for the promotion of innovative products and components, can add problems when it comes to post-processing. The technology also uniquely requires support removal when using certain build technologies and materials, or powder removal, all of which add to the burden of post-processing.
Hund continues, “Post processing is a hot topic in the area of AM today, which is unsurprising as in many applications, the post-processing step(s) can account for anything from 20-50% of the total unit cost for an AM part. AM Solutions - 3D post processing technology is leading the drive to reduce the time and cost of the post-processing step in product development, while simultaneously keeping a total focus on the need for precision and repeatability in production. AM Solutions’ range of automated post-processing technologies have all been developed in order to overcome the sometimes slow, costly, and disconnected AM process chain, and to ensure that AM is an efficient and viable production alternative to legacy manufacturing technologies. The company promotes innovative, customer-focused process development for AM operations, and collaborates with customers to ensure the optimal post-processing solution for each application. The whole AM Solutions’ team has a determination to focus its expertise on streamlining the AM ecosystem, and we work hard to ensure that bottlenecks such as post-processing are eliminated through the judicious use of sophisticated automated solutions. We as always look forward to meeting the AM community at Formnext, and to discuss the ways in which our technologies and expertise can be used to benefit specific customer applications.”
A team of AM Solutions experts will be on hand to meet with Formnext attendees on booth C81 in Hall 12. The company also invites attendees requiring pre-arranged 1-2-1 meetings to email email@example.com, so specific meeting times and dates can be confirmed.