Additive Manufacturing The latest 3D printing solutions for tool and mould makers

Editor: MA Alexander Stark

Global manufacturing leaders move beyond prototyping to fully embrace 3D printing for series production. Printers are getting faster, can produce bigger parts and create reproducible qualities. What are the latest developments?

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(Source: Public Domain / Pixabay )

3D printing refers to a process in which a component is built up layer by layer on the basis of digital 3D design data by depositing material. It's a production process which differs clearly from conventional, ablative production methods. For example, instead of milling a workpiece out of a solid block, additive manufacturing builds up components layer by layer from materials that are available as fine powder. Various metals, plastics and composites are available as materials.

In mould and tool making this manufacturing method is used in rapid prototyping — the construction of visual and functional prototypes. Product development and market launch can thus be significantly shortened. Additive Manufacturing is also used for rapid tooling, i.e. the method of producing a tool using additive manufacturing. This is especially useful when the tool is used to produce small series. Particularly in toolmaking, there are many other possible applications of 3D printing. While the aforementioned applications describe the direct production of either finished part or finished (prototype) tool, additive manufacturing can also be applied to manufacture components or parts. This may include producing mould inserts or even equipment needed to optimize the manufacturing process.

Another common application is the optimization of the mould itself. In this case, speed is not the decisive factor but rather the added possibilities offered by additive manufacturing. With 3D printing, cooling channels can be added to injection moulds that cannot be produced with traditional methods like millling and drilling. Using additively manufactured cooling channels within the tool, even areas that are difficult to access — for example, those surrounding the ejector and slider — can be cooled conformally. The injection molding cycle can run much more quickly than before.

This overview represent individual processes and solutions. The decision as to whether such an implementation is worthwhile for a company must always be made on a case-by-case basis:

Micro Arch 3D DLP system s240: BMF's high-precision 3D printers for microfabrication are available now.
Micro Arch 3D DLP system s240: BMF's high-precision 3D printers for microfabrication are available now.
(Source: BMF Precision)

New technologies for an efficient use of AM

The US-company Boston Micro Fabrication (BMF) manufactures high-precision 3D printers for micro-manufacturing products that require high resolution, accuracy and precision. In additive manufacturing with polymers and composites, Micro Arch 3D printers produce high-precision parts at 2 μm printing resolution with +/- 0 µm tolerance. The 3D printers, which provide a fast and cost-effective alternative to high-resolution injection moulding and CNC machining, are now available in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

The Micro Arch series 3D printers were developed based on PμSL Projection Micro Stereolithography 3D printing technology, which enables rapid photopolymerization of a layer of liquid polymer using a flash of UV light at microscale resolution. Customizable optics, a high-quality motion platform and controlled processing techniques are suitable for numerous prototyping and low-volume micro manufacturing applications. The product line begins with the entry-level Micro Arch P150, which produces small, detailed parts at low investment costs with resolutions up to 25 μm. As many as three printers achieve 10 μm resolution, targeting companies and universities that require ultra-high resolution, accuracy and precision in a desktop package. This includes the new Micro Arch P240, which can print parts with a larger build volume from a wide range of engineered materials. This printer is specifically designed to meet the demands of small-batch industrial production.

With the highest resolution of just 2 μm, the 3D printers in the third series are perfect for applications that require ultra-high resolution and low tolerances. The 2 μm series handles a wide range of materials and is the best choice for producing CAD-accurate prototypes that have to look exactly like the finished product.

The micro 3D printers are used in the development and production of medical objects ranging from stents to prostheses to surgical implants. The addition of biocompatible materials offers numerous opportunities for better and more customized patient care.

In electronics and mechatronics, consumers and businesses are demanding increasingly smaller devices with higher performance, which can also be met with Micro Arch 3D printers. Connector manufacturers are gaining new opportunities to profitably produce complex designs with micro 3D printing. In microfluidics and micromechanics, micro 3D printing is suitable for valves, pumps, sensors, microphone components and many other applications that require small and high-precision components. Product development obtains new options and geometric freedom with the Micro Arch series of 3D printers.

3D Systems announces introduction of next generation “High Speed Fusion”

In collaboration with Jabil, 3D Systems has developed the novel industrial 3D printing platform High Speed Fusion (HSF). The fused filament printer is said to be three times faster than standard systems — which the company intends to prove from 2022.

According to 3D Systems, their new 3D printing platform can operate at speeds and precision levels beyond the current state of the art through the use of electrical motion control. The temperature capability and available build volumes, as well as the material portfolio, have been specifically designed for aerospace and automotive applications, including:

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  • Direct Printing: aerospace interiors and ducting, drone components, automotive under dash and under hood, and other general industrial applications.
  • Tooling & Fixtures: manufacturing aids, automation and robotics tooling, lift assist tooling, as well as molds and sacrificial tools.
  • Prototyping Parts: automotive, aerospace, medical, heavy equipment, and general industry support.

“By introducing our High Speed Fusion filament printer, 3D Systems will build on the organizational focus that we adopted in 2020, and expand our presence in growing markets that demand high reliability products such as aerospace and automotive,” said Dr. Jeffrey Graves, president and CEO, 3D Systems. “Our investments in this solution, and collaboration with Jabil, will allow our customers to increase productivity and performance by using additive manufacturing with a hardware, software, and materials platform that is uniquely designed for the rigors and requirements of an industrial setting.”

The Roadrunner 3D printer is the first member of the HSF product family. According to 3D Systems, it offers the following advantages:

  • Highest deposition rates combined with the best dimensional precision of any standard industrial class of fused filament platform.
  • Lowest landed part cost without sacrificing part quality.
  • Capability to process high-performance, high-temp materials, like ULTEM and PA CF with a broad range of general-purpose filaments like ABS and PETg ESD.

Application engineering and materials development on the new platform has been underway for more than a year and will continue during 2021, with shipments of the Roadrunner system to begin in 2022.

The X1 160Pro is the world's largest metal binder jetting system and is now shipping to customers. A controlled-atmosphere model of the system, capable of high-volume aluminum and titanium production, will be available in late 2022.
The X1 160Pro is the world's largest metal binder jetting system and is now shipping to customers. A controlled-atmosphere model of the system, capable of high-volume aluminum and titanium production, will be available in late 2022.
(Source: Business Wire)

World’s largest metal binder jet 3D printer with a controlled atmosphere

Binder jetting expert Ex One announced that it will offer a controlled-atmosphere model of its X1 160Pro extra-large production metal printer in the second half of 2022. The company's largest metal 3D printer will offer a controlled atmosphere, enabling aluminum and titanium production. The patented approach will be part of a complete inert production system.

A controlled atmosphere is essential for 3D printing of reactive fine metal powders, but it also offers other benefits, such as reduction of powder oxidation and enhanced powder dispensing and spreading through control of humidity. This update will smooth the way for high-volume production of aluminum, titanium, copper, and several other materials using binder jet 3D printing technology.

Ex One has successfully been binder jetting reactive powders in controlled atmospheres, also sometimes referred to as inert or chemically inactive, for years. In 2020, the company was issued a patent on binder jet 3D printing in a controlled atmosphere.

The controlled-atmosphere X1 160Pro can be used with nitrogen or argon and will be paired with accessories and ancillary equipment also equipped with inert atmosphere features. These include a curing oven, powder conditioning system, depowdering station, and transport device for moving the build-box between process stages to ensure complete atmosphere control throughout the process.

The manufacturer will continue to offer the original model of the X1 160Pro, a streamlined model for customers who do not need a controlled atmosphere system to process metal powders such as stainless steels. Ex One customers currently use the X1 25Pro metal binder jet system for production today without an inert feature, with one customer now operating six of the systems for serial production. Ex One binder jet 3D printing technology is capable of processing 23 metal, ceramic, and composite materials, including a dozen single-alloy metals such as aluminum and titanium.

The medium-format machine produces components of up to 300 mm in diameter and 400 mm in height from all weldable materials (steels, nickel-based alloys, titanium, aluminium) by powder bed-based laser melting.
The medium-format machine produces components of up to 300 mm in diameter and 400 mm in height from all weldable materials (steels, nickel-based alloys, titanium, aluminium) by powder bed-based laser melting.
(Source: Trumpf)

Trumpf introduces new series of its Tru Print 3000 3D printing system

Featuring two 500-watt lasers, a revised inert gas flow concept and melt pool monitoring, Trumpf has further developed its Tru Print 3000 laser melting system. According to Trumpf, the new Tru Print 3000 can be equipped with a second laser, which almost doubles its productivity. Two 500-watt lasers scan the machine’s entire build chamber in parallel. This makes production much faster and more efficient regardless of the number and geometries of the parts. With the Automatic Multilaser Alignment option, the system can automatically monitor the multilaser scan fields during the build stage and calibrate them to each other. With each laser scanning a contour, the process does not lead to any kind of weld seams.

The flow concept has also been revised. According to Trumpf, the protective gas now flows particularly evenly through the system from the back to the front - which increases the quality of the printed parts. In addition, it is possible to remove excess powder from the component while it is still inside the system. Since the printing powder is then reprocessed under inert gas, no contamination enters the powder circuit — an important advantage for sensitive industries such as medical technology.

In addition, the new Tru Print 3000 is equipped with so-called melt pool monitoring. This melt pool monitoring is intended to ensure the quality of the component even during 3D printing. For this purpose, special sensors constantly check the melt pool. Software compares the values with the data of a stored reference workpiece and graphically displays deviations — for example, if the melt pool is too cold or overheated.

Jeol announced the release of Electron Beam Metal AM Machine JAM-5200EBM.
Jeol announced the release of Electron Beam Metal AM Machine JAM-5200EBM.
(Source: Business Wire)

Electron beam metal AM machine ensures high reproducibility

In late March, Japanese machine manufacturer Jeol launched their Electron Beam Metal AM Machine JAM-5200EBM. Using technology of a powerful electron microscope and an electron beam lithography system for semiconductor manufacturing, the company has developed an electron beam metal AM machine with high power, density and speed.

The new Electron beam metal AM machine JAM-5200EBM achieves high quality and reproducibility in the mass production of parts. The machine addresses the requirements of industries that require a high level of quality such as aerospace, industrial power, and medical devices. It features a long-life cathode with 1500 hours or more. According to the manufacturer, this can greatly reduce downtime for cathode replacement and improve productivity. Additionally, there is no need for helium gas can maintain the manufacturing quality until the end of the cathode's lifetime.

The company's powder dispersal prevention system “e-Shield” avoids scattering. Thanks to the helium-free environment, not only can parts be manufactured in a clean space at a low cost but the surface of the cathode is also less susceptible to damage, allowing the electron beam to remain stable. As a result, the manufacturing quality can be maintained until the end of the cathode's lifetime. Additionally, the automatic electron beam adjustment function ensures both a high quality and high reproducibility in manufacturing. The status of the manufacturing process and the system can be continuously checked by a remote monitoring system.

The 3D Sprint 3.0 software provides the end-user with the ability to auto-place parts by height.
The 3D Sprint 3.0 software provides the end-user with the ability to auto-place parts by height.
(Source: ETG)

Enhanced software features ensure better 3D-printing quality

The 3D Systems additive manufacturing technology that is available in the UK from the Engineering Technology Group (ETG) has now been enhanced with the release of 3D Sprint 3.0. The exclusive new software technology for preparing and optimising CAD & polygon data and managing the additive manufacturing process on the 3D System’s plastic 3D printers offers significant enhancements over previous versions, the company states.

The 3D Sprint 3.0 software includes key new features and enhancements that bring new value to users, with a special focus on capabilities that support the move from rapid prototyping to serial production. The software solution has been lauded for its ability to perform as a single software application that takes the user from CAD to print with increased efficiency and optimised data management that streamlines the time to print parts with a single, easy-to-use interface.

The 3D Sprint 3.0 software has several general enhancements that include the ability to import industry-standard 3MF format files, a new tool to space and align parts on the build platform and the ability to delete sub-parts and reset parts to their original size and position. Further improvements include more detailed and data-rich reporting and the ability to separate parts in random colour for easier identification.

With the 3D Systems Multijet Printing (MJP) line that is available from ETG, the 3D Sprint 3.0 software provides the end-user with the ability to auto-place parts by height for better quality and print speed whilst also providing the facility to include more parts on the build tray. The 3D Systems MJP Series also benefits from the new scale and offset Wizard that can calibrate the printer and deliver parts that are more precise than ever before.

Infinam TI 3100 L is the first high-performance material of Evonik's photopolymer product family.
Infinam TI 3100 L is the first high-performance material of Evonik's photopolymer product family.
(Source: Evonik)

Evonik's first photopolymer materials for additive manufacturing reach market maturity

Two ready-to-use materials mark the launch of Evonik's new product line of resins suitable for use in common photopolymer 3D printing processes such as SLA or DLP. The company will debut the new products at the TCT Asia show in Shanghai, China, from 26 to 28 May.

With the new product line, the company is entering the market-relevant photopolymer technology space, strengthening their long-term market position as material experts for all major polymer-based 3D printing technologies. The first high-performance material from Evonik's photopolymer product family results in 3D components that are both impact-resistant and tough. The combination of properties makes Infinam TI 3100 L a new standard for additive manufacturing of industrial components using photopolymer 3D printing processes such as SLA and DLP. The impact strength value measured on printed components is 30 J/m3 with a simultaneous high elongation at break of 120 %. The new material can thus excellently withstand strong impact or permanent mechanical influences such as pressing or impact. The range of possible applications extends from industrial components and automotive parts to individual applications in the consumer goods sector, which, in addition to design-free shapes, require strong mechanical loads in object use.

The second formulation with the brand name Infinam ST 6100 L sets new standards in the category of high-strength synthetic resins, the company states. With a tensile strength of 89 MPa, a flexural stress of 145 MPa and an HDT of 120 °C, it fills the material gap in ultra-high-strength photopolymers. These special properties make Infinam ST 6100 L the material of choice for applications that require high temperature resistance combined with high mechanical strength.

The new line of photopolymers are ready-to-use high-performance formulations that can be processed on a wide range of common SLA and DLP machines commercially available on the market.

New Stratasys F770 installed at Sub-Zero Group, a luxury appliance manufacturer, for 3D printing very large parts.
New Stratasys F770 installed at Sub-Zero Group, a luxury appliance manufacturer, for 3D printing very large parts.
(Source: Stratasys)

Three new 3D printers for FDM, P3 and SAF applications

Stratasys is accelerating into the Additive Manufacturing 2.0 era, in which the company see global manufacturing leaders move beyond prototyping to fully embrace the agility that 3D printing brings to the entire manufacturing value chain. Last year, the company accrued more than 25 percent of its revenue from manufacturing-related applications. Going forward, with a comprehensive and integrated portfolio of 3D printing hardware, software, materials and services solutions, Stratasys estimates that its manufacturing revenue growth will outpace other segments, growing at an annual rate of over 20 percent starting in 2022.

The company now introduced the their Origin One 3D printer, designed for end-use manufacturing applications. The new 3D printer uses proprietary P3 technology and a software-first architecture to produce parts at volume in a wide range of open, certified third-party materials with industry-leading accuracy, detail, finish, repeatability, and time to part. That technology combined with hardware upgrades enabled Stratasys to optimize virtually all aspects of the system in the new version of the product to improve reliability and performance. Cloud connectivity means customers will receive additional feature improvements.

Stratasys also introduced the Stratasys H350 3D printer, the first 3D printer in their new H Series Production Platform. Powered by SAF technology, the new H350 printer delivers production-level throughput for end-use parts. It is designed to give manufacturers production consistency, a competitive and predictable cost per part, and complete control for the production of thousands of parts. The H350 printer even includes about a dozen different parts 3D-printed with SAF technology.

The H350 printer has been in beta testing since early 2021 with service bureaus and contract manufacturers in Europe, Israel, and the United States, including Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, which is now selling parts on demand using the system. It is expected to ship more broadly to customers in Q3 of this year. Applications include end-use parts such as covers, connectors, hinges, cable holders, electronics housings, and ducting.

The third new system announced, the F770 3D printer, builds on the manufacturer’s reputation for reproducibility and dependability via industrial-grade FDM technology. Ideal for big parts, this newest FDM 3D printer features the longest fully heated build chamber on the market and a generous build volume of over 372 liters.

The new system, priced under $ 100,000, is designed for prototyping, jigs and fixtures, and tooling applications requiring standard thermoplastics. Soluble support material simplifies post processing, while Grab CAD Print software streamlines workflow and enterprise connectivity is enabled through the MT Connect standard and the Grab CAD SDK.

Wayland Additive is delighted to fully unveil its breakthrough metal additive manufacturing (AM) technology Neubeam, with the commercial launch of its first platform: Calibur3.
Wayland Additive is delighted to fully unveil its breakthrough metal additive manufacturing (AM) technology Neubeam, with the commercial launch of its first platform: Calibur3.
(Source: Wayland Additive)

Wayland Additive announces first sale of Calibur3 metal AM system

Since its virtual launch event held in March, Wayland has garnered significant interest in the Calibur3 machine from across a wide cross section of industry. Peter Hansford, Director of Business Development at Wayland Additive, comments: “We are extremely pleased with the response to the launch of our Calibur3 machine, and to be able to announce our first sale to Exergy is very exciting. We are in advanced discussions with a number of companies interested in our ground-breaking metal AM process, all of which recognise that Neubeam affords them access to numerous production alternatives. Most importantly, the charging issues that make electron beam (EBM) processes so unstable have been fully neutralized with this technology. Moreover, Neubeam is a hot “part” process rather than a hot “bed” process like traditional eBeam processes. This efficiently creates parts that are free of residual stresses because the high temperatures are only applied to the part and not the bed, ensuring free-flowing powder post-build (no sinter cake) and stress-free parts with reduced energy consumption.”

Traditional workarounds for the eBeam process have been developed by the AM industry, but these lead to downstream complexities. The use of very high processing temperatures across the entire build plate creates a part within a semi-sintered cake, and this makes part removal and post processing very difficult, time consuming and expensive. These compromises also severely limit the materials that can be used, the geometrical forms that can be produced and ultimately the applications that can benefit from the eBeam process.

Neubeam is material agnostic, can produce complex geometries that are impossible on other eBeam systems, and is typically 30-40 percent faster by removing the need to maintain and sinter the cake.

Cold Metal Transfer
Cold Metal Transfer
(Source: LKR Leichtmetallkompetenzzentrum)

Accelerating robot-assisted industrial additive manufacturing

Supplier of CAD/CAM software components, Module Works, and Robotized, supplier of CNC and robotic manufacturing solutions, have extended their partnership to offer customized, automated solutions that accelerate robot-assisted additive manufacturing, including CMT (Cold Metal Transfer).

Robotized and Module Works already supply customers with tailor-made solutions for subtractive and additive manufacturing. The two companies are now extending and intensifying this cooperation to help manufacturers digitalize their existing workflows and transfer to automated and highly efficient robot-driven production for CMT and other additive processes. The companies see a lot of potential for automating and accelerating additive manufacturing, especially CMT manufacturing. Robotized are experts for robot-assisted welding and buildup welding applications, and together the partners want to digitalize existing processes and use intelligent toolpath planning to deliver efficient, automated solutions that enable manufacturers to remain competitive and productive.

The cooperation combines Robotized process optimization for robotic and machine kinematics with the latest Module Works toolpath algorithms for additive manufacturing. The algorithms generate high-performance, collision-free toolpaths with minimal operator intervention for highly automated and efficient workflows that speed up the manufacturing process. As part of the collaboration Module Works is developing new algorithms for fast CMT manufacturing. This is to enable the partners to offer robot-assisted CMT solutions alongside wire-arc additive manufacturing (WAAM), laser cladding and material extrusion.

The 3D printing tool is specifically dedicated to the current processes and higher requirements of small batch production of 3D printed parts.
The 3D printing tool is specifically dedicated to the current processes and higher requirements of small batch production of 3D printed parts.
(Source: Core Technologie)

Software for small batch production of 3D printed parts

The latest version of CoreTechnologie's 4D_Additive additive manufacturing software is equipped with new features to meet the increased demands of small batch production of 3D printed parts.

For the first time, the new version 1.3 provides an application programming interface (API) for Hewlett Packard and Photocentric machines enable a seamless and time saving process to send the slicing data generated on the computer directly to the printers.

Another highlight is the revised texture module, which can be used to quickly and easily enhance the surfaces of CAD models as well as STL bodies with various surface textures. In addition to the option of applying your own designs, there are over 5000 predefined patterns to choose from. In addition, logos and QR codes can be generated and texts as well as incremental part IDs can be applied on the printing parts.

Especially for powder bed machines, the so-called nesting functions have been improved to ensure fast and thermally optimized filling of the build space. The new version uses AI algorithms to selectively fill free areas in the build space and ensure constant slice areas of the individual layers.

The enormously calculation speed results from the use of all available processors of the computer. It is possible to prepare the nesting of parts manually and optionally define the degrees of freedom around X, Y and Z individually for each part.

The new position correction for SLS and SLM parts serves to avoid surface defects caused by zig-zag movements of the laser on the bottom and top slice layer of the parts. For manual positioning, the new software version offers an intelligent Powercopy function using a voxel representation of the models for high packing density.

An automatic repair function for scan data delivers closed and homogeneous STL models in the shortest possible time. The functions for cutting CAD and STL models have also been extensively revised, with various joining patterns such as pins or grooves now also available.

Multistation is to play a major role in the distribution of Meltio's metal 3D printing technology in France.
Multistation is to play a major role in the distribution of Meltio's metal 3D printing technology in France.
(Source: Meltio)

Multistation tasked with distribution of Meltio’s metal AM technology in France

French digital and additive manufacturing engineering company, Multistation is going to play a key role in the distribution and support of the Meltio metal 3D printing solutions in the French market, as the prime official reseller

Laser metal deposition technology manufacturer Meltio offers a pioneering metal 3D printing solution that enables industrial applications with a process built around welding wire. Now, the company announced its first official sales partner in the French territory, Multistation. The partner will focus on building a supportive ecosystem for this technology in the French territory partnering and driving business opportunities alongside technology centers, tooling machine companies, robotic integrators, academia, and industry. The company, established in 1987, is an independent provider of disruptive and advanced consulting, services, and devices for digital and additive manufacturing.