Additive manufacturing hits the big time

EuroMold saw some major launches in the additive manufacturing field – including the biggest commercially-available 3D printer yet.

The biggest news (in every sense) to emerge from the recent EuroMold exhibition in Germany was the launch of Objet's latest and largest machine to date, the Objet1000. The name derives from the machine's wide-format build envelope of 1000 x 800 x 500 mm. The Objet1000 is claimed to be ideal for automotive, defence and aerospace applications, industrial machinery, consumer goods and household appliance sectors as well as high-end service bureaus that need to create industrial size, 1:1 scale prototypes. Designed for all-round fit, form and functional prototyping, the Objet1000 combines a large and easily accessible build platform with the advanced precision of inkjet 3D printing and Objet's renowned Connex multi-material capability – all in a single machine. According to Objet CEO David Reis: "As our largest ever 3D printing system, the Objet1000 takes advanced inkjet 3D printing technology to the next scale. The system enables our customers in a range of industries to now quickly and effectively prototype anything at full-size, 1:1 scale, from whole aeroplane and automobile assemblies to complete household appliances. The Objet1000 is the next step in the 3D printing revolution." The Objet1000 saves manufacturers and designers from having to assemble prototypes from smaller-sized jigsaw pieces or from having to use various, less effective, or efficient solutions. Igal Zeitun, VP for product marketing and consumables at Objet adds: "Unlike comparable 3D printing systems, the Objet100 is just as good at printing 1:1 scale casings that can be drilled, assembled, and screwed together as it is at reproducing the precise look and feel of small, complexly-assembled consumer products. The system is easy to use, can work unattended for prolonged periods, and requires only the minimal manpower to operate." The Objet1000 system offers a choice of over 100 materials, enabling designers and engineers to simulate both standard and ABS-grade plastics. As with all Objet Connex 3D printers, the Objet1000 is also able to print up to 14 different material properties within a single model. In fact, Objet's range of materials has expanded following the release of a new and improved Objet Rigid Black Material, which provides enhanced dimensional stability and surface smoothness, making it ideal for fine detail, all-purpose rapid prototyping. Based on the new and improved Rigid Black Material, Objet also introduces 16 new rigid black and rubber-like Digital Materials (composite materials made by combining Objet Rigid Black and Objet Rubber-like Material). For Objet Connex systems exclusively, these 16 new 'Digital Materials' enable the simulation of a variety of rigid/rubber-like properties including a higher-toughness material that simulates polypropylene, as well as a range of flexible materials with different Shore A values from 27 to 95. The new material combinations enable the easy and accurate prototyping of seals and packaging for consumer goods, electronics and automotive parts. Such models require the combination of rigid and flexible properties within a single prototype of consistent black colouring. EOS, meanwhile, presented the Formiga P 110 at this year's EuroMold. Intended as the successor model to the established and very successful plastic laser-sintering system Formiga P 100 , the Formiga P 110 is designed to offer flexible, cost-effective and highly productive entry into the world of laser-sintering. Various EOS parameter sets enable a focus both on economic efficiency and component properties such as surface quality. With short throughput times and comparatively low investment costs, the Formiga P 110 can be integrated perfectly into production environments that require maximum flexibility. The system is suitable for the economic production of small series and customised products with complex geometries. This makes it ideal for small, sophisticated components used in the medical device industry or for high-value consumer goods, for example. With a build envelope of 200 mm x 250 mm x 330 mm, the system manufactures products made of polyamide or polystyrene directly from CAD data within only a few hours. Numerous technical innovations have been integrated into the Formiga P 110, all of which are intended to enhance process stability and reproducibility. These include the new four-channel heating and the use of a single-point pyrometer. At the same time, lowest-cost integration in factories with a central nitrogen supply system is guaranteed by an external nitrogen connection. The established dosing and coating system was retained. The system is intended to be extremely user- and maintenance-friendly and to require an absolute minimum of accessories. Low energy consumption and thus overall costs of operation were other important factors considered in the design process. A door-passing laser-sintering system, the Formiga P 110 can, it is claimed, be installed and calibrated in under two days. Since data preparation can conveniently take place at the workstation, the system is also very suitable for decentralised production areas. The high level of automation and ergonomic peripheral equipment of the Formiga P 110 also allow for comfortable handling and the optimum utilisation of machine capacity and materials. EOS also presented two new materials at Euromold. PrimePart Plus represents a breakthrough in polymer development. The material can evidently be refreshed using only a 30% share of new powder, resulting in a powder cycle with minimum scrap quantities. This improves the cost efficiency and sustainability of the laser-sintering process, since conventional laser-sintering materials are usually refreshed using 50% or more new powder. This does not lead to diminished technical performance of the material and the key performance indicators achieved are only slightly lower than those of PA 2200. The other material is PA 1101, a natural-colored polyamide 11 which is characterised by high elongation at break and impact resistance with a balanced performance profile. The material is based on renewing resources and can thus be classified positively in environmental terms. On account of its material properties, the material is particularly suitable for applications with functional elements that require high material ductility (e.g. integral hinges) and ones where high impact resistance is important. Another typical application for this material is for components that do not allow chipping, such as passenger cells in vehicles.