The Digital Manufacturing Centre (DMC), Towcester, Northamptonshire, UK, will be one of the first businesses to receive the new RenAM 500 Flex from Renishaw plc, Wotton-Under-Edge, Gloucestershire, UK. The new metal Additive Manufacturing machine is intended to enhance commercial operations by allowing users to easily switch between material types without compromising part quality.
Through long-term collaboration with Renishaw, the DMC has been selected as a key beta site for ‘in industry’ testing of the RenAM 500 Flex. These final phases of the development programme aim to verify the capabilities and versatility in a busy commercial production environment.
The RenAM 500 Flex is expected to improve pre-production testing and material selection, while also allowing users to establish parameters that can be easily transferred to more automated machines, like the RenAM 500, for faster serial production.
“One of the most limiting factors in metal Additive Manufacturing is the restriction on material changes,” stated Jonathan Archer, General Manager at Renishaw. “This hampers the speed of material testing, impeding exploration and experimentation in the development and production of new parts. Our engineering development team have comprehensively addressed this challenge with the exciting new RenAM 500 Flex.”
He added, “As part of our final development testing, we are trialling the real-world performance of the RenAM 500 Flex in the busy production environments of key beta sites – one of which being the DMC. Over the past eighteen months, we have worked closely with the DMC leadership and engineering team to develop and implement new systems and products. This is yet another reflection of the ongoing strength and trust of this collaborative relationship.”
The RenAM 500 Flex combines the gas flow capabilities and build chamber of the RenAM 500 with a simplified, non-recirculating powder system that enables a complete material change n around eight hours. Available in both single and quad-laser configurations, the Flex includes the same process monitoring capabilities as the regular RenAM 500, allowing for transferable melt pool analysis.
The system has been designed to minimise material loss between transitions, with easier retrieval and cleaning than conventional machines – particularly within the same material family. To help facilitate contaminant-free material changes, Renishaw has developed ‘material change kits’ that include all the required seals and gaskets needed for an optimised switch. If the material flexibility is no longer required, or there is increased demand for build capacity, the RenAM 500 Flex can be upgraded with the automated powder handling of the RenAM 500.
With the DMC now fully operational and fulfilling orders from a wide variety of advanced sectors, it is hoped that the RenAM 500 Flex will further enable the DMC team to solve complex engineering challenges. With faster material and part testing, DMC engineers will be able to maximise part quality and performance. Additionally, the RenAM 500 Flex can operate as a production system, thereby further increasing the DMC’s total build capacity.
Renishaw will be providing DMC engineers with extensive training on the material change process and guidance on how to fully explore and exploit the RenAM 500 Flex’s capabilities in a production environment.
“As one of the UK’s leading engineering and advanced AM providers, we strive to find the right production solutions to solve customer challenges,” added Kieron Salter, Chief Executive Officer at the DMC. “An extremely important part of that development process is material selection. While variable material pre-production testing was not previously feasible, the groundbreaking RenAM 500 Flex enables it directly – better still, the parameters that we develop on the Flex can be easily transferred to our regular Renishaw RenAM machines for serial production. We are thrilled to have been selected as a beta site for this new machine and very much look forward to once again working with Renishaw’s talented team.”
The RenAM 500 Flex is set to be officially launched by Renishaw at Formnext in Frankfurt, Germany (16-19 November 2021).