Fraunhofer Institute develops high-speed 3D printer for high-performance plastics

Fraunhofer High-speed 3D printerDevelopment of Screw Extrusion Additive Manufacturing (SEAM) by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology has helped saving a lot of time as it has made the process eight times faster than the conventional 3D printing. Visitors will be able to witness this ultrafast 3 D printer live during the Hannover Messe from April 1 through 5, 2019.

This innovation has taken 3D printing to another level where the high-speed technology of the system takes hardly 18 minutes for production of a 30 centimeters high plastic component. This is a remarkable enhancement in contrast to the previous 3D printers which take upto an hour to produce a pocket-sized souvenir and hence prove to be a way too slow process for the mass production of components required in the automotive industry.

The researchers have developed this technology for the additive manufacture of large-volume resilient plastic components. Tool manufacturers along with the automotive and aerospace industries are at an advantageous position with this innovative 3D printer. This printer makes use of the SEAM – short for Screw Extrusion Additive Manufacturing – a process developed at the Chemnitz Institute.

Dr. Martin Kausch, a scientist at Fraunhofer IWU, answers the question – How does SEAM achieve these high process speeds? as follows: “By combining machine tool technology with 3D printing. So far, this combination is unique.”

To process the plastic, the researchers use a specially designed unit that melts the raw material and ejects it at a high output rate. This unit is installed above a construction platform that can be swiveled in six axes by using the motion system of a machine tool. The hot plastic is deposited in layers on the construction platform. The motion system of the machine ensures that the construction panel slides along under the nozzle in such a way that the previously programmed component shape is produced. The table can be moved at a speed of one meter per second in the X-, Y- and Z-axes and can also be tilted by up to 45 degrees.

Dr. Martin further added: “This enables us to print eight times faster than conventional processes, enormously reducing the production times for plastic components.”

Another advantage of the SEAM process is that it’s really cost effective. SEAM helps the researchers in implementing complex geometries devoid of supporting structures. The distinguishing factor is that the new system even makes it possible to print on existing injection-molded components.

Dr. Kausch quotes: “As our construction platform can be swiveled, we are able to print on curved structures with a separately moving Z-axis. In tests, we were able to process a wide variety of plastics. They ranged from thermoplastic elastomers to high-performance plastics with a 50 percent content of carbon fiber. These plastics are materials that are particularly relevant to industry and cannot be processed with traditional 3D printers.”

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