Industrial additive manufacturing: Freeformer for complex geometries and individualisation
From 13 to 17 April 2015, as an exclusive partner of the Hanover Fair, Arburg will present a complete process chain comprising injection moulding and additive manufacturing using Industry 4.0 technologies at the special Additive Manufacturing exhibit. Taking the example of a rocker-type light switch, the exhibit will demonstrate how high-volume plastic parts can be customised on an industrial scale using the Freeformer and the associated Arburg Plastic Freeforming (AKF) process.
The Freeformer is primarily used where a spare part or functional sample needs to be made quickly, but cost-effectively and without a mould. Fully functional one-off parts or multi-variant small-volume batches can thus be produced in line with requirements. Here, Arburg Plastic Freeforming offers a high level of design freedom and material diversity. Moreover, part geometries can be achieved which could not be demoulded using injection moulding technology.
At the special "Additive Manufacturing" exhibit, one Freeformer will be used at the product design process chain station while two others will be used for component individualisation. One Freeformer produces prototypes, while the other turns every injection-moulded rocker-type light switch into a unique item by applying the individual symbol/name combination in an additive process. Both the holding device for the component and the gripper for the robotic system in the packaging station were made using the Arburg Plastic Freeforming process.
|With the Freeformer for additive manufacturing and Allrounder injection moulding machines, Arburg covers the entire industrial production spectrum. At the Hannover Messe 2015, Arburg combines two processes for the individualisation of mass-produced parts|
New industrial additive manufacturing process
With Arburg Plastic Freeforming (AKF), inexpensive, conventional plastic granulates are the base material – one of its advantages over other additive manufacturing processes. As with injection moulding, the granulate is first melted in a plasticising cylinder. A stationary discharge unit with a special nozzle then applies tiny plastic droplets layer-by-layer onto the part carrier using high-frequency piezo technology at a specified duty cycle of 60 to 200 Hertz. Depending on the nozzle used, the diameter of the droplets generated under pressure is between 0.2 and 0.3 millimetres.
The moving part carrier is positioned so that each droplet is deposited at the precise point calculated in advance. During cooling, the tiny droplets automatically fuse together. The desired three-dimensional component is thus created layer-by-layer. The construction chamber of the Freeformer offers space for parts with maximum dimensions of 190 x 135 x 250 millimetres.
|Arburg Plastic Freeforming (AKF) is based on liquid plastic droplets. The base material used here is standard granulate, which is melted in a plasticising unit|
Environmentally and user friendly
One great advantage of working with the Freeformer is that no dust or emissions are produced and therefore no additional infrastructure is required. Extraction units and cooling water can be dispensed with. The system is therefore also perfectly suitable for use in an office environment. All that is needed are a mains outlet, 3D CAD data and conventional plastic granulate.
|The Freeformer manufactures fully functional one-off parts or multi-variant small-volume batches. At the Hanover Fair 2015 it will individualise rocker-type light switches with a symbol/name combination (centre)|
Automatic data processing
The 3D CAD data for the parts being manufactured (STL files) are processed offline on a PC. Special software generates the necessary manufacturing data through slicing. Once the Freeformer controller has received this data – which determines the axis movements, etc. – production can begin. Operation is extremely simple; no special programming or processing knowledge is required.
|Freeformer construction chamber: The rocker-type light switch is placed in a holding device where an individualised symbol/name combination is applied in an additive process. The holding device itself was also made using the Arburg Plastic Freeforming (AKF) process|
Producing complex geometries with supporting structures
The Freeformers are equipped with a movable three-axis part carrier and two stationary discharge units as standard. This means that two components can be processed simultaneously, so that parts can be produced in different colours, with special tactile qualities, or as a hard/soft combination, for example. As an alternative, the second discharge unit of the Freeformer can be used to build up structures from a special support material. This also makes it possible to achieve unusual or very complex part geometries.
More info www.arburg.com
- ARBURG spol. s r.o.