June 8, 2011 - Continuous 3D printing technology represents a new dimension in the manufacturing of moulds and models without tools. At the GIFA trade fair, voxeljet will be unveiling the world’s first continuous 3D printing machine at exhibition stand 13/B32-01. The process steps of building and unpacking run in parallel, without having to interrupt system operation.
With its ground-breaking concept study, voxeljet has become the pioneer of a completely new machine generation. Dr. Ingo Ederer, CEO of voxeljet AG, sums up the advantages of this unique concept: ”The innovative system design allows unprecedented performance to be achieved. While printing is carried out on one side of the system, unpacking can take place synchronously on the other. This is all done without operation being interrupted. It raises production, in particular patternless small batch production of moulds and models for metal casting, to a higher dimension of speed and cost-efficiency.”
This leap in technology has become possible thanks to the novel design (patent pending) with a horizontal belt conveyor that controls the layer building. The layers are built at the entrance of the belt conveyor, the unpacking takes place at the exit.
The core of the process is the printing, which is done on a level tilted to the horizontal. The printing process is similar to conventional 3D printing. First the recoater generates a layer of powder. This layer is at an angle to the horizontal that is smaller than the repose angle of the powder. The high-performance print head then selectively bonds the layer. The conveyor system moves the entire fill toward the unpacking area by one layer thickness. The finished component can simply be removed from the rear end of the system when it has gone through the entire material on the conveyor belt.
The concept study allows for a build space of 500 x 500 millimetres in height and width. The length of the moulds is virtually unlimited with this type of system as there is no restriction to the length of the belt conveyor. The usable build length is only limited by the manageability of the moulds. The tilt of the print level enables the print head to take far less time for positioning movements, which improves the print speed.
The system technology also offers additional benefits. Apart from the technological highlights, users will be pleased with the investment and operating costs because they are lower than those of conventional systems. With the continuous printing system, there is no need for a build container or separate unpacking station, which has a positive effect on the purchase costs. The printer also scores points with its high re-use rate for the unprinted particle material, which is returned straight to the build zone from the unpacking area. Consequently, the machine requires smaller filling quantities and incurs lower set-up costs.
The concept study uses the time-proven voxeljet printing technology, which guarantees the exceptional quality of the moulds generated. It involves a high-definition voxeljet print head with a resolution of 600 dpi. The machine works with layer thicknesses of 150 µm to 400 µm. ”At the present time we are working flat out on refining the system for series production. Customers should be taking delivery of the first machines by the beginning of next year at the latest. The new machine concept is set to become a real highlight in our wide-ranging portfolio of standard and high-definition printers. With this system we now have a unique product range and can offer customers from a variety of industries the perfect solution for any application,“ says Dr. Ederer.