EOS Metal additive technology leads to lower injection cycle times

Editor: Eric Culp

EOS, a German supplier of metal laser sintering units, has sealed a partnership deal with a shop that has already created faster injection tooling. In addition, the company recently introduced an upgraded version of a production unit.

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Augustin Niavas, business development manager for tooling at EOS, said the partnership with the German shop is expected to benefit all EOS customers.
Augustin Niavas, business development manager for tooling at EOS, said the partnership with the German shop is expected to benefit all EOS customers.
(Source: EOS)

Spritzguss+Formenbau Bergmann, in Telgte, Germany, has been using its first metal additive manufacturing system to improve tooling design. The company purchased an Eosint M 280 from EOS, and has also become a service provider to the supplier.

Bergmann designs and produces injection mould tools and also manufactures high-grade plastic components using its more than 70 injection moulding machines.

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Creating cooling channels that conform to the cavity

The purchase of the generative technology has allowed the shop to produce tool inserts, such as cores and slides, as well as prototypes directly from metal. The production system is based on the direct metal laser sintering process, or DMLS, which builds components layer by layer from 3D CAD data. Constant monitoring during construction is said to boost the quality and repeatability of components.

The system’s supplier said the unit allows users to achieve complex geometries such as freeform surfaces, fins and cooling channels. In particular, it is possible to create conformal cooling channels using DMLS, which reduce moulding cycle times and improve the quality of the plastic components produced. The material most commonly employed in tool construction is EOS Maraging Steel MS1, the company said.

According to Augustin Niavas, business development manager for tooling at EOS, the shop is an important player in the sector. “We are pleased to have found a strong and highly professional partner for injection moulding, one which has many years of experience with conventional technologies but which is at the same time open to innovative technologies.”

Niavas noted that the shop’s selection suggests generative production methods are becoming more mainstream. “The fact that Bergmann has chosen EOS technology reflects the level of maturity that additive manufacturing has now attained.” The new partnership allows the companies to provide a wide range of services, he noted. “Together, we are able to cover the entire process chain, from the engineering design stage of the tool to the finished plastic component.”

New additive unit has already made moulds faster

Niavas said this deal will also bear fruit for other EOS customers. “From this position, we will continue to jointly support customer projects in the future and develop the market for additive manufacturing in tool construction.“

André Gerbert, assistant to the senior management at Spritzguss+Formenbau Bergmann, discussed some of the changes that have occurred since the machine was delivered to the shop. “Right from the start we were convinced about the benefits of the EOS additive manufacturing process. Not only can we employ the new metal system for toolmaking on the premises, but we can now also perform contract work for our customers based on this new manufacturing technique.”

Applying the technology to mould design has already produced results, Gerbert explained. “It means that we are already able to achieve considerable reductions of up to 20 per cent in cycle times. Moreover, as additive manufacturing enables conformal cooling of tool cores, we can produce a tool that is 50 per cent better in terms of functionality.”

The technology has also provided increased design freedom, according to Gerbert. “It should be noted that half of the tool cores that we are now able to produce using the EOS system could not be manufactured using conventional methods.”

Supplier rolls out upgraded generative machine

EOS said it recently introduced a successor to the M 280 model, the EOS M 290. With a build volume of 250mm x 250mm x 325mm, the EOS M 290 permits flexible and economic manufacturing of metal components, the company noted.

Adrian Keppler, chief marketing officer at EOS, said the unit is a combination of both old and new. “EOS has incorporated proven elements from the M 280 system generation in the new EOS M 290.” This system is designed to serve the requirements of serial-production customers, Keppler said, but it also suits other types of production. “We have also created new optimisation potential in terms of build quality for customers from the prototyping space.”

The company said it has retained the central processing elements of the previous version, including the process chamber, gas stream, process parameters, etc. This choice has resulted in constant process behaviour and consistent component quality, it explained.

Additional features increase levels of quality assurance

The latest model is said to offer extensive monitoring functions both for the system itself and for monitoring the build process. This adds even more quality assurance to the field of additive manufacturing, the company explained, adding that the monitoring features make the system attractive for industrial applications in the aerospace industry as well as for medical applications.

With the aid of the Eostate Powder Bed system, a camera built into the process chamber monitors the powder bed and follows powder deposition and exposure with still images. Eostate Base ensures the consistent monitoring of a range of parameters, including the position of the Z axis or scanner, laser power, air humidity, temperature and pressure. Finally, the company’s laser monitoring system measures the laser power throughout the entire build period.

The system relies on a 400-Watt laser, said to provide high radiation quality and performance stability. The unit can be operated under an inert (nitrogen) atmosphere or under argon, which permits processing of a great breadth of materials, EOS explained. These include light alloys, stainless and tool-grade steels, and superalloys.

The company’s parameter sets ensure that parts can be made with standardised property profiles, resulting in a broad spectrum of applications, it noted. As with the previous model, EOS also supplies customers with the EOS Parameter Editor for modifying a range of exposure parameters. The tool lets customers develop their own parameters for specific applications on the basis of the supplier’s parameter sets. These include laser power and exposure speed or strategy. The company noted that a new version of the editor is currently under development, which will also allow modification of layer thickness, inert gas stream, build-platform temperature, and skip layers.