Tools, components and spare parts of all kinds: all this and more is increasingly generated layer by layer by help of a 3D printer. Additive manufacturing offers almost infinite possibilities to design objects from different materials and shows its strengths especially in rapid prototyping. In terms of speed and the use of new substances, the new generation of 3D printers sets the course for the future.
From the finest gear to complete tires: innovative 3D printing processes and materials enable prototypes and workpieces in increasingly complex geometries and filigree contours that conventional mechanical or casting production methods fail to produce. The components convince with highest detail and dimensional accuracy as well as stability, making them ideally suited for realistic functional tests. This revolutionizes prototype construction, reduces development costs and shortens time-to-market.
But the possibilities of this future technology are far from exhausted. 3D printing is also increasingly becoming a topic for series production, for example through 3D printers that can process a combination of different high-tech materials or interact with intelligent automation. In Industry 4.0, 3D printing and other manufacturing processes work seamlessly together. Another big plus is the exact scalability of the number of manufactured products. Orders can be processed precisely and without overproduction.
Full speed ahead
The latest 3D printers impress with a much faster printing process. The Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology developed a system and a process called SEAM (Screw Extrusion Additive Manufacturing) which is up to eight times faster than previous printers. This solution makes it possible to process up to seven kilograms of plastics per hour. By way of comparison, other printers can handle 50 grams per hour. Tool manufacturers, too, can benefit enormously from this high-performance innovation.
Sustainable materials conquer 3D-printing
In addition to optimizing speed, another focus is on the development of biodegradable materials. Researchers at the University of Singapore have succeeded in producing a turbine blade for hydroelectric power plants from a cellulose material that they developed themselves – without any plastics. A fungus-like microorganism serves as the sole basis. Loose cellulose fibres are joined together, and the microorganism acts as a natural and self-producing adhesive. How the process works exactly, however, remains a secret at this point. The researchers are now looking for industrial partners who will bring the system to market maturity. So far, however, it has been clear that the fungus-like adhesive is extremely stable, light and easy to shape into the desired shape. The big advantage: environmentally friendly disposal thanks to the biodegradability of the fungus.
You can experience these new technologies and solutions up close at the #Eisenwarenmesse2020 trade fair in Cologne. Of course, there will also be numerous other insights into the latest technical developments of one of the most innovative industries of our time. Make sure to schedule it in!