Solukon Maschinenbau GmbH, Stadtbergen, Germany, has announced it will formally launch its line of depowdering systems for metal Additive Manufacturing systems at this year’s formnext powered by TCT exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany, November 14 – 17, 2017.
The systems automate the process of removing excess unmelted metal powder in powder bed fusion systems through systematic rotation and controlled vibration of the laser melted metal parts, releasing powder trapped in voids and internal channels around and inside the parts.
“Metal AM systems have grown in their capabilities and the breadth of application in recent years, but peripheral processes to speed up the industrialization of these technologies has been lagging,” stated Solukon Co-founder Andreas Hartmann. “Studies by leading users of AM indicate that more than 70% of the costs of producing metal parts is attributed to pre- and post-processes. Solukon’s mission is automate and simplify the additive process, and by so doing to expand the industrial viability of these technologies.”
Co–founder Dominik Schmid added, “Customers tell us that they want to reduce the costs and simplify the process of part manufacture, and manage the occupational and environmental risks of metal additive manufacturing. Our systems set new standards in the industry for the achievement of these goals.”
As the design of additively manufactured parts has increased in complexity to take advantage of the possibilities of the additive process, so too has the challenge of removing unfused powder from inside these complex structures. “Solukon systems have been designed to maximize the reclaiming of unused powder through processes that minimise the need for manual intervention,” added Hartmann.
The systems are supplied in two sizes, and each size comes in two versions. The large size SFM-AT800 depowdering system is designed for the processing of large parts with maximum dimensions of 500 x 500 x 500 mm (19.7 x 19.7 x 19.7 inches), and up to a weight of 300 kg (661 lbs). In 2018 the SFM-AT800 will also be available for larger part dimensions of 800 x 400 x 500 mm (31.1 x 15.8 x 19.7 inches). The SFM-AT300 system is designed for smaller parts of up to 300 x 300 x 350 mm (11.8 x 11.8 x 13.8 inches) weighing up to 60 kg.
Both systems come in a standard version for the removal of hazardous metal dust by extraction, and an inert gas version that facilitates the safe processing of powders with a high explosive risk, such as titanium and aluminium. Thanks to their sealed cleaning process and with the safety-monitored infusion of inert protective gas, the systems are ATEX certified for the safe processing of these materials.
AM parts, including build plates, are fixed onto the processing table of the machine. The process table rotates the parts in a pre-planned path to release unused powder from around and within the printed parts, including from inside inner channels for parts such as conformal channels, and from complex shapes such as heat sinks and heat exchangers. At the same time, a controlled variable-frequency vibration device targets the release of even stubborn and compacted powder from inside the parts.
The rotating device for the large format SFMAT800 operates in two axes to free powder from the most inaccessible areas of the parts. The machine also features an automatically opening roof that allows crane-loading of heavy parts. The rotating device for the SFM-AT300 operates in a single axis, suitable for smaller parts. Unfused powder is collected for further processing or re-use in a specially designed container, or connected to an external sieving device.
For processing of problematic materials such as titanium and aluminium, both systems come equipped with a nitrogen or argon gas infusion system for powder processing in an inert atmosphere. The system meets ATEX explosive standards for the processing of reactive materials.
The systems will be on display at the formnext exhibition, Hall 3.0 Booth C78.