AddUp, Clermont-Ferrand, France, recently signed a partnership agreement with Kif Parechoc, a subsidiary of Acrotec Group based in the Vallée de Joux, Switzerland, to use metal Additive Manufacturing in its high-precision watchmaking. Kif Parechoc supplies a range of watch movement components, such as shock-absorbing systems, ratchets and barrels, to famous names in the Swiss and European watchmaking industry.
The collaboration’s first project has involved the design of a watch clasp made of low-carbon 316L stainless steel. By utilising Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB), the number of components was reduced by a factor of two compared with clasps manufactured traditionally.
“For this project, we started with a classic product, but integrated new aspects, such as lattice structures, organic shapes and recessed markings,” stated Yoann Canon, Industrial Director, Kif Parechoc. “We are now working on the development of new post-treatment processes, adapted to the requirements of our industry and our production volumes. At each stage of this project, AddUp was eager to collaborate. Between their mastery of the printing process and our knowledge of the products, or their industrialisation and our finishing operations, our companies complimented each other well.”
AddUp’s development of its FormUp 350 AM machine, capable of using fine grain size metal powders, was said to be key to the partnership. These fine powders make it possible to produce complex parts without supports and obtain precise parts with smoother surfaces. When combined with Kif Parechoc’s experience in surface treatments, these characteristics are hoped to give rise to parts and mechanisms that are new to the watchmaking world.
This is where the work currently being carried out by the partners could be of interest on a wider scale, it was stated. Industrialists in the micromechanics sector have been hesitant to adopt metal AM, but, if the proposed innovations of AddUp and Kif Parachoc regarding both the optimisation of the process and the post-processing are successful, this partnership could pave the way to new applications of metal AM in the watch industry, and more generally in the entire microtechnology and micromechanics industry.