Additive Manufacturing Software For Metal Parts

Continuing coverage of additive manufacturing from last week’s Rapid + TCT show in Chicago, here is news from Roboze, a company specializing in extreme end-use metal replacement parts. The original additive process used polymer materials. Metals have been hard to process and maintain tolerance. Technology has advanced.

Roboze has launched Prometheus, a robust slicing software that increases the productivity of its customers. The software, developed by Roboze’s software engineering team, was unveiled today at this year’s Rapid + TCT event.

The development of the Prometheus software empowers Roboze customers with a complete, simple, and intuitive 3D printing software solution for end-to-end workflow management, from the first stages of design through final production of the printed part. Prometheus was designed with a user-friendly interface and cutting-edge features to increase digital production and parts performance from Roboze 3D Printers. The technology behind Prometheus was developed to specifically consider the robust performance capabilities of the machines and the intrinsic characteristics of Roboze’s specially developed, high-performance super polymers and composite printing materials. The software allows users to easily and quickly create a stable, secure 3D printing code in just a few clicks, and it works across the most popular browsers in the world, including Chrome and Edge.

Software Partner and 3D Printing Materials Bring Additive Manufacturing to the Factory Floor

While at Fabtech and Rapid + TCT last week, I stopped by the Stratasys booth. It’s another of the leading Additive Manufacturing (or 3D Printing) suppliers developing materials, machines, and software. Here are a few announcements from it.

Expanded material options for new manufacturing systems

Stratasys continues to expand its ecosystem of materials to offer customers a variety of options across 3D printing technologies and solutions. The company announced new materials for the Stratasys H350 and Stratasys Origin One 3D printers and a new Origin Open Material License (OML) for the Origin One.

The SAF-powered Stratasys H350 3D printer is specifically designed for the mass production of end-use parts with consistency, and the ability to customize and control the production workflow. The H350 will initially utilize High-Yield PA11, a sustainable material derived from 100% bio-based castor beans. In addition, in 2022, PA12 (also known as Nylon 12) will be available for the H350. PA12 provides dimensional stability, chemical resistance and impact strength, and has been used across various additive manufacturing printing technologies for creating jigs and fixtures, tooling, and functional end-use parts.

Stratasys has further expanded its ecosystem of materials with two new materials by Henkel for the Stratasys Origin One. Stratasys Dura56 by LOCTITE is a durable, impact-resistant photopolymer with exceptional surface finish and a low cost per kilo. The material was created to address applications with high material consumption and for functional applications where aesthetics and robustness are critical. Dura56 is ideal for end-use parts such as housings, parts with mating features, or class A surfaces.

The second material for the Origin One printer is LOCTITE 3D IND405 Clear, a one-part semi-rigid 3D printable clear photopolymer resin that provides smooth surface finish, good impact resistance and elongation. Parts printed in IND405 can be polished to an optically clear finish. The material can be machined, tapped and polished, and is ideal for microfluidic devices as well as guide overlays. Its qualities are most comparable to unfilled polypropylene.

Stratasys is also introducing the Origin Open Material License (OML) for the Stratasys Origin One system, which is expected to ship this year. With the Origin OML software toolkit, advanced print users and material companies will be able to develop, beta test, and experiment with custom workflows and new materials. OML users will have the ability to override light, temperature, force, velocity and pressure on a layer-by-layer basis for ultimate control over the print process. The OML is designed to help materials companies and super-users accelerate iterations of material formulations and push products to market in weeks, not years.

Supporting Industry 4.0 with a growing software ecosystem

The GrabCAD Software Partner Program has added eight software partners so far in 2021, enabling Stratasys customers to integrate additive manufacturing into their Industry 4.0 initiatives. Stratasys today announced the newest addition to the GrabCAD Software Partner Program – AMFG.

AMFG, a leading provider of Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and workflow automation software for additive manufacturing, has partnered with Stratasys to deliver advanced AM solutions that combine AMFG’s workflow automation expertise with Stratasys’ 3D printers and GrabCAD software. AMFGs software solution enables connectivity across the production workflow, streamline processes, and provide greater levels of traceability and visibility. Further, the combination of Stratasys 3D printing solutions with AMFG’s fully automated order management, routing and production scheduling tools enable fully automated end-part production at scale.

Transforming additive manufacturing technology

Daikin Applied, a member of Daikin Industries, Ltd., designs and manufactures advanced commercial and industrial HVAC systems for customers around the world. The company is using the large build volume of the new Stratasys F770 3D printer to print batches of end-use parts for HVAC cabinets, which has allowed them to achieve a 93% time savings over purchasing custom injection molded spacers. Daikin is also using the F770 to print nozzle clamps used in Daikin test chambers, again saving time and costs over traditional manufacturing.

In February 2021, Stratasys announced the acquisition of UK-based RP Support Ltd. (RPS), a provider of industrial stereolithography 3D printers and solutions. This acquisition provided Stratasys customers with a new 3D printing technology option that produces high-quality parts with superior surface quality, accuracy and detail.

The Stratasys Neo Series of printers can produce concept models and prototypes with industry-leading accuracy, exceptional sidewall quality and crisp feature resolution, as well as rapid tooling and master patterns. Furthermore, the Neo Series of printers are designed with an open resin material system. This allows customers to choose the material that best suits their application.

Additive Manufacturing—Machine, Materials, Software

Talking with the Blake Teipel, CEO of additive manufacturing developer Essentium, at Rapid + TCT last week, he emphasized the core of the company’s offerings—Machine, Materials, Software. I summarized the show last week. Following are details from the company’s press releases. They include high-performance materials and a new printer, and electronics manufacturing.

First was announced the introduction of Essentium PEKK, made with Arkema 6002 Kepstan resin. This ultra-polymer offers high heat and chemical resistance and mechanical strength to meet the performance requirements of aerospace and industrial applications.

PEKK shares most of the performance attributes of PEEK but has a lower crystallization rate and can therefore be treated as an amorphous polymer. This means it is less affected by the cooling process once the part is 3D printed, thereby minimizing warping. PEKK maintains the flame smoke toxicity ratings for FAR (Federal Aviation Regulations) compliance while offering improved resistance to chemical attack compared to PEI materials. PEKK has an extrusion temperature between 340 and 400°C. 

The new material extends Essentium’s open additive ecosystem by allowing manufacturers to scale and meet the requirements of their specific applications with tested and certified materials of their choice. Essentium PEKK ensures manufacturers can quickly produce parts that meet their industry’s reliability, repeatability, and performance standards.

The Essentium HSE 280i HT 3D printer demonstrates how the industry’s first true independent dual extruders (IDEX) machine gives manufacturers the ultimate machine tool to 3D print at scale.  The system is independent on both the Y and X-axis, enabling manufacturers to 3D print multi-part builds at industrial speeds, even for parts with complex geometries.

Said Brandon Sweeney, Ph.D., Executive Vice President of R&D, Materials and Co-founder, Essentium Inc.: “Industries such as aerospace and automotive want AM to give them speed to parts without sacrificing quality. By providing an open additive ecosystem with a range of high-performance materials such as PEKK combined with the powerful capabilities of the HSE 280i, industry players now have a unique opportunity to rapidly produce complex parts for harsh and extreme environments on-demand. These AM innovations are game-changing for manufacturers who are driven by improvements in efficiency and time-to-market opportunities.”

Electronics Manufacturing with Industrial-Scale 3D Printing

Essentium, Inc. showcased its work with electronics manufacturer VIRTEX to achieve significant efficiencies, cost-savings, and time-to-market gains. Serving customers across aerospace, military, medical, and other industrial sectors, VIRTEX needed to create large volumes of custom fixtures for circuit boards and electronics placed in plastic enclosures. The fixtures were machined using traditional methods, but the lead time and cost would be unsustainable as production scaled. VIRTEX needed a 3D printing solution that could deliver the speed and agility to meet the demand for 3,000 fixtures per month and a build volume to accommodate 18″ x 6″ parts. 

VIRTEX worked with Essentium to explore the possibilities of deploying AM to create custom fixtures that could perform as well as the machined counterparts. Using the Essentium High Speed Extrusion (HSETM) 3D Printing Platform and Essentium PCTG material, VIRTEX could print the set of fixtures in under two days, reducing the lead time by almost two weeks. For the same fixture order that cost $5,000, the 3D printed part was $30, reducing the cost by 99%.

Said Ian Denefe, Manufacturing Engineer at VIRTEX: “The flexibility of additive manufacturing was one of the biggest benefits for us. The fact that we could reverse engineer existing fixtures, print them quickly, and rapidly modify them or replace them made it an ideal solution.”

Said Blake Teipel, Ph.D., CEO of Essentium: “As additive manufacturing goes mainstream, it is increasingly possible to manufacture crucial parts at speed and scale not previously seen. Given its greater design freedom, accelerated time to market, and significantly lower tooling costs, AM is fast becoming one of the most effective ways to meet the demands of electronics manufacturers. We will continue to work with customers like VIRTEX to unlock innovative new possibilities in electronics design and production.”

Universal Robots Showcases Innovative Applications at Fabtech 2021

My last post before absconding for vacation included an overview of Fabtech 2021—the first trade show I’ve visited in two years. Aside from the additive manufacturing area, the next most active area for me was collaborative robots. Much of the activity concerned welding. People at the Universal Robot booth told me that smaller companies have trouble hiring welders. The smaller cost of these robots plus speed from delivery to production make them an attractive alternative.

Universal Robots used FABTECH 2021 as the launchpad for new cobot applications including heavy-duty water-cooled welding, hardfacing, plasma cutting, and flexible machine loading. 

UR cobot-powered systems were mainstream at FABTECH with numerous OEMs and UR+ partners actively selling MIG, TIG and plasma welding and cutting solutions, making it one of the fastest growing market for UR cobots.

“For 40 years, robotic arc welding evolved incrementally”, says Joe Campbell, Senior Manager of Applications Development and Strategic Marketing at Universal Robots. “Collaborative arc welding is the first disruptive technology to hit the robotic arc welding market since the introduction of DC servo powered robots,” he adds, attributing the rapid market traction to several key drivers including significant shortage of welders, increase in high mix/low volume production, and the fact that cobot welders are easy to deploy, quickly producing parts with improved quality and consistency.

Heavy-duty welds are now possible to perform with cobots as Vectis Automation becomes the first UR partner in North America to develop a water-cooled cobot-based welding system in a new version of its Cobot Welding Tool. The solution is now not only compatible with Miller welding equipment but can be integrated with Lincoln and Fronius welding equipment too. 

Vectis Automation also pioneers the use of a UR cobot for hardfacing, the metalworking process where harder or tougher material is applied to a base metal. The company debuted new UR cobot powered plasma cutting as well, featuring Vectis’ Cobot Cutting Tool with Hypertherm PowerMax able to perform complex cuts on 3D shapes and large structures for a fraction of the cost of a tube laser. 

The UR booth also hosts new solutions for automated machine tending, featuring the new VersaBuilt CNC Mill Application Kit for manufacturers seeking a plug-and-play approach to CNC milling automation. Versabuilt’s UR+ Application Kit comes with all components pre-assembled and designed to successfully get the CNC mill and the UR10e cobot working together, automating the loading and unloading of parts into the mill. The VersaBuilt Kit requires no programming experience with easy-to-use automation software that allows the machinist to simply enter part dimensions and CNC milling program numbers to get the application up and running. 

Universal Robots’ ActiNav combines intelligent vision and real-time autonomous motion control with Universal Robots’ e-Series cobots. ActiNav combines real-time autonomous motion control, UR cobots, vision and sensor systems in one seamless Application Kit that solves the bin picking challenge in machine tending applications. At FABTECH, ActiNav picked metal parts randomly jumbled in bins and correctly insert them into a machine. Powering ActiNav is the new enhanced version of UR’s best-selling UR10e cobot now featuring 25% more payload capacity with the ability to lift 12.5kg (27.55lbs).

When it comes to the grippers picking up parts in automated loading and unloading of machine tools, as well as handling of ferromagnetic raw materials, gripping with magnetic grippers has proven to reduce cycle time and increase production. SCHUNK has addressed this industry need with the new EMH gripper, the world’s first electrically activated, 24 V permanent magnetic gripper with integrated electronics. The new EMH gripper will be showcased in seamless integration with a UR cobot at UR’s FABTECH booth alongside the new UR+ product, the AOV-10 Axially-Compliant Orbital Sander, from ATI Industrial Automation that is the ideal robotic solution for surface preparation and finishing. With built-in compliance, the AOV-10 is well-suited for many different robotic application types—even those that require a light touch. 

Fabtech, My First Trade Fair In Person in Two Years

It is nice to be back. Like riding a bicycle, there was no relearning required getting back into the trade show routine. Only difference for me was I drove from home (now in the northwest Chicago suburbs) in a little over an hour rather than the 4-1/2 hours from western Ohio.

There were many exhibitors. Fabtech is a metal working show with the addition of an additive manufacturing section. The show filled most of the south hall of McCormick, a big chunk of the north hall, a little of the east hall main floor, and most of the second level of the east hall for the additive technology show and conference.

I’ll be posting press releases of relevant companies later. I’ll summarize the experience here.

I learned in the additive hall that there are three major players—Markforge (which actually had a booth in the south hall), Essentium (where I got a half-hour with the CEO), and Stratasys (probably the first one I knew about a few years ago). These companies provide materials, machines, and software. Each has a slightly different emphasis from the others. I had a sense that they are beginning to get connected—as in connected to the rest of manufacturing and to the enterprise.

One company showed micro products. Tolerances of parts has gotten very good. I ran across the beginnings of “Manufacturing-as-a-Service” ideas. These machines being digital can and do collect amazing amounts of data.

Robots were my focus in the Fabtech part of the show. Especially cobots, where I spent some time in the Universal Robotics booth. Much more later, but the new thing with cobots is welding. An application previously reserved for the big six-axis machines, many welding applications are perfect for the smaller cobot. One company building on to Universal Robotics’ cobot claimed it could bring in a cobot welding system in the morning and have it in production after lunch. I believe them. I have seen how easy these are to set up and get started.

A company called Simpac builds presses. It has developed an XR application for iPads and similar devices that lets a tech virtually walk through the press, see through an exploded view to find the recalcitrant part, and then find part numbers of replacement parts. They’ve used it as a run-off, buy-off tool in these Covid reduced travel days.

Enterprise software was represented. I talked with the Epicor people. Wiser Systems has a location tracking product with an internally developed wireless mesh network. And automation companies Beckhoff Automation and Bosch Rexroth were also there. More in a later post.

Traffic was decent through the show floor. I don’t think many exhibitors were greatly disappointed, but they would have liked more traffic. With the first time back and Covid reappearing, I’d consider the show a success. But Covid has impacted a conference I was slated to speak at which is now going virtual. Oh, well. 

Fast Track Transition to All Electric Mines

Mining is not my forte, but it is for ABB. The company has sent several updates to it mining process automation and electrification portfolio. If you are not thinking about where you can add electrification to your processes, you may be behind the curve.

The news in summary:

  • eMine comprises a purposeful approach, method and integrated portfolio of electrification and digital systems designed to accelerate the decarbonization of the mining sector
  • ABB is also piloting ABB Ability eMine FastCharge, the world’s fastest and only fully automated charging system for haul trucks, offering up to 600kW of power
  • eMine can reduce diesel consumption by up to 90 percent while haul trucks are on an electric trolley system

ABB launched ABB Ability eMine, a portfolio of solutions that will help accelerate the move towards a zero-carbon mine. ABB also unveiled the piloting of the groundbreaking ABB AbilityeMine FastCharge, the world’s fastest and most powerful charging system, designed to interface with all makes of electric mining haul trucks. 

eMinecomprises a portfolio of electrification technologies which makes the all-electric mine possible from mine to port and is integrated with digital applications and services to monitor and optimize energy usage. It can electrify any mining equipment across hoisting, grinding, hauling and material handling. From 2022, it will include new ABB AbilityeMine FastCharge which provides high-power electric charging for haul trucks and is currently in pilot phase. It also incorporates the ABB Ability eMine Trolley System which can reduce diesel consumption by up to 90 percent, significantly lowering energy costs and environmental impact.

“The global mining industry is undergoing one of the most significant and important transformations of our generation – and that is to become zero-carbon,” said Max Luedtke, Global Head of Mining at ABB. “ABB Ability eMine is an exciting milestone to help convert existing mining operations from fossil fuel energy to all-electric. Mines can become even more energy efficient with vastly reduced levels of CO₂ emissions, while at the same time staying competitive and ensuring high productivity.”

“We are celebrating 130 years in the mining industry and decades in the electrification of mining equipment,” added Mehrzad Ashnagaran, Global Product Line Manager, Electrification and Composite Plant. “Today we are extending our engineering capabilities and investment to electric transport, to bring new solutions to meet the growing demand of our customers. Besides the environmental benefits, fuel price volatility, making electricity more cost competitive, and legislation are driving the move to electric-powered mines. ABB not only understands these requirements, but we can also equip the industry to meet them.”

eMine FastCharge can serve as a cornerstone of the transition to fully electrified mines across the industry. This flexible and fully automated solution is being designed for the harshest environments, can be installed anywhere and can charge any electric truck without human intervention at up to 600kW, the highest power available on today’s market to minimize the downtime of mobile assets. Charging time will depend on the battery capacity onboard the haul truck and the operational profile, however in many instances a suitable state of charge could be reached within 15 minutes. With eMine, ABB is extending its capabilities to the electrification of mining trucks and technologies for the full mining process.

eMine provides integral design planning and thinking to maximize the value of electrification, helping to design the hauling process in the most optimized way with electrical solutions that match mine constraints and help meet production targets. ABB helps mine operators map their journey towards an all-electric mine from phasing out diesel to embedding a new mindset and new team skills. By fully integrating electrification and digital systems from the mine to the port, eMine further reduces overall costs and improves mine performance while significantly lowering environmental impact.