Building on innovation

New process innovations are increasing productivity and applications in the field of additive manufacturing.

Making 3D printing into a viable production technology relies on constant innovation in terms not just of machines, but of materials and processes. Given which, a new technology that cuts additive manufacturing build times by up to 50% represents a significant step forward.

Renishaw has launched TEMPUS technology™, which enables users of its additive manufacturing (AM) systems to achieve significantly higher productivity, with no reduction in part quality. The time and cost savings achieved through TEMPUS technology™ will further the use of AM as a volume production method and help drive wider adoption.

Unveiled at Formnext 2023, TEMPUS incorporates a new scanning algorithm for Renishaw’s RenAM 500 series of metal AM systems, which allows the laser to fire while the recoater is moving, saving up to nine seconds per build layer. Over the cycle time of the build, the time saving can cut the build time by up to 50%. Crucially, there is no reduction in part quality.

With TEMPUS technology™, as the recoater spreads a layer of powder, the lasers “follow” the recoater, melting the powder being spread before the recoater completes its stroke. When the recoater goes back to the doser to collect more powder, the lasers “jump over” the recoater and continue melting the current layer, mitigating wiper time. As the recoater begins spreading the next layer of powder, the lasers finish the previous layer, and simultaneously starts processing the new layer. TEMPUS technology™ reduces the dwell time per layer, shortening cycle times.

The technology works using advanced scanning algorithms that sequence the layer data in a way that maximises productivity while maintaining part quality. The optimisation suits some part geometries more than others, but all geometries can see some productivity benefits. Those parts with thin, vertical features, for example, are likely to experience higher productivity savings.

“Reducing cost per part is critical to the wider adoption AM technology,” explained Louise Callanan, Director of Additive Manufacturing at Renishaw. “The dominant contributing factor to part cost for most components today is the time spent building the part on the machine itself. Reducing the amount of machine time per part therefore results in more cost-effective production.”

“That’s why TEMPUS technology™ is such a big leap forward,” added Callanan. “Usually, the laser would turn off while the recoater is moving. Firing the laser while the recoater is moving minimises the laser off-time per build. The time and cost saving TEMPUS brings will open AM up to mass production applications where the technology would previously have been unviable.”

For uses in consumer electronics and computing, Renishaw has entered into an exclusive partnership agreement with metal component expert Alloyed, which has been using TEMPUS technology™ since 2021.

Protolabs, meanwhile, has introduced a new service that provides even more surface finish choices for product developers, innovators and manufacturers. For prototypes and smaller production series, it is now possible to achieve new, exciting surface textures, including leather and geometric patterns, when producing parts via additive manufacturing.

Textured surfaces play a central role in modern manufacturing and design, particularly in injection moulding, enabling unique appearance and haptics for a wide range of components. From the automotive and aerospace industries to medical technology, this new service provides more control of surface texture when 3D printing, opening the possibility to create leather-like structures or geometric patterns.

The leather-like surface structure in particular opens new application possibilities – especially in the fashion and automotive industries. Additively manufactured leather structures could therefore soon become a sustainable and more animal-friendly alternative to conventional leather.

Structured surfaces are translated by Protolabs’ experts into black-and-white contrast images of the desired surface structure, which specifies the dimensions for the production process. This process is highly adaptable and suitable, not only for manufacturing techniques such as SLS (selective laser sintering) and MJF (multi-jet fusion), but also for a wide range of other additive methods.

“There are virtually no limits to the imagination of our customers here,” explains Christoph Erhardt Manager Customer Projects & Additive Design at Protolabs. “By creating structured surfaces, we’re building another bridge between injection moulding and 3D printing. A key advantage of our new offering is that no further post-processing steps are required to achieve the desired surface feel and appearance. Surface structures are created during the design process that correspond to the final (series) part and can include even fine details. This provides our customers with the unique opportunity to structure new kinds of surfaces as well as to replicate structures that already exist in nature.”

The result: a prototype manufactured with the highest precision that is particularly true to reality and matches the properties of the final part. At the same time, the new service accelerates production processes as well as the market maturity of the product.

The new process also creates a unique surface structure regarding the properties and function of components. This is because the flexible design options of the material surfaces enable users to adapt the structure to the properties and functionality of their component and optimise their products by selecting a suitable surface finish. For example, friction can be specifically reduced, adhesion improved, and heat dissipation enhanced. Accordingly, an individual adaptation of haptics and appearance can be achieved for components, as well as increased durability, efficiency, and performance of the products.