Day Two of IMTS 2022: The 3D Printing Automation Trend Gains New Momentum

On the second day of the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) 2022, it became clear that “digitization” and “automation”, which have long been the buzzwords of 3D printing, reflect more and more in the reality of the industry.

Towards the start of the second day of IMTS, Canon Sales Engineer Grant Zahorsky led a session in which he discussed how automation can help manufacturers overcome staffing shortages. This arguably set the tone for the event, with companies across the show releasing important product updates that could minimize human invention, while optimizing cost, time and part geometry. .

To help makers keep track of what this change could mean for them, Paul Hanaphy of the 3D printing industry spent the day covering live events in Chicago and put together a summary of the latest news from IMTS.

The entrance to McCormick Place, Chicago, during IMTS 2022. Photo by Paul Hanaphy.

Variable advances in automation
At IMTS, a host of technologies designed to advance 3D printing automation were showcased, but they also took very different forms. In a Siemens session, for example, additive manufacturing business manager Tim Bell said that “there is no better technology” to advance digitalization in the world of manufacturing, than the 3D printing.

However, for Siemens, this means digitizing the design of the factory, as well as using technology from sister company Siemens Mobility to digitize more than 900 individual train parts, which can now be printed on demand. To continue to “accelerate the industrialization” of 3D printing, Bell said the company has invested in “CATCH” innovation spaces, which have opened in Germany, China, Singapore and the United States.

Ben Schrauwen, managing director of software developer Oqton, owned by 3D Systems, told 3D Printing Industry how its machine learning (ML)-based technology facilitates greater automation in part design and manufacturing. Using a range of different ML models, the company’s technology automatically generates machine programming and CAD configuration, so as to optimize construction results.

According to Schrauwen, one of the main benefits of adopting Oqton’s offering is that it allows metal parts to be printed on any machine with “16 degree overhangs, without no modification “. Already, he says, the technology is gaining ground in the medical and dental industries, with demand in the oil and gas, power, automotive, defense and aerospace sectors soon to follow. .

“At the heart of Oqton is an MES with a fully connected IoT platform, so we know what’s going on in production environments,” Schrauwen explained. “The first industry we targeted was dental care. Now we are starting to look at the energy sector. Because we have so much data in the system, it becomes easy to generate automated certification reports, and oil and gas is a great example. »

A demo part designed to show the complex unsupported cantilevers made possible by Oqton's software.  Photo by Paul Hanaphy.
A demo part designed to show the complex unsupported cantilevers made possible by Oqton’s software. Photo by Paul Hanaphy.

The aerospace exploits of Velo3D and Optomec
Velo3D often comes to trade shows with impressive aerospace prints, and at IMTS 2022 it did not disappoint. On its stand, the firm is exhibiting a titanium propellant tank that it has managed to produce using its Sapphire 3D printer for Launcher, without the need to incorporate any internal support.

“Traditionally, you’ll need support structures and you’ll have to remove them,” explained Matt Karesh, Velo3D’s Technical Development Manager. “Then you’re going to have a really rough surface from the scraps. The removal process itself will also be expensive and complex, and you will have performance issues.

“Our part preheats the fuel, which makes combustion more efficient,” he added. “So when you inject that preheated fuel into the chamber and ignite it, you can get more thrust.”

Prior to IMTS, Velo3D announced that it had qualified M300 tool steel for sapphire, and it also launched parts made from the alloy on its booth. Featuring a high level of strength and hardness, the metal is said to have attracted great interest from various car manufacturers who plan to print it in die-cast inserts, as well as others who plan to use it. for tooling or injection molding.

The launcher propellant tank printed in 3D on the Velo3D stand.  Photo by Paul Hanaphy.
The launcher propellant tank printed in 3D on the Velo3D stand. Photo by Paul Hanaphy.

Elsewhere, in another aerospace-focused launch, Optomec rolled out the first system it developed alongside its Huffman subsidiary, the LENS CS250 3D printer. The fully automated manufacturing cell can be operated individually or chained with others, to produce stand-alone parts or perform repairs on constructions such as worn turbine blades.

Although it is typically designed for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), Optomec Regional Sales Manager Karen Manley explained that it also has significant potential in material qualification. Since the system’s four material loaders can be fed independently, she said “you can develop alloys and print them instead of mixing powder,” and even create wear liners.

Optomec's LENS CS250 3D printer at IMTS 2022. Photo by Paul Hanaphy.
Optomec’s LENS CS250 3D printer at IMTS 2022. Photo by Paul Hanaphy.

Push High-Throughput Polymer AM

On the photopolymer front, two advances really stood out, the first of which was the launch of the P3 Deflect 120 for the 3D One printer from Origin, a subsidiary of Stratasys. The result of a new partnership between Origin’s parent company and Evonik, the material is designed specifically for blow molding applications, in a process that requires parts to have a heat deflection of up to 120ohVS

The reliability of the material has now been validated for this on the Origin One, with Evonik saying its testing suggests the polymer results in parts that are 10% stronger than those produced via a competing DLP printer, and Stratasys expects that. it further broadens the appeal of a system with already strong open hardware credentials.

Also on display in the machine advances was the Inkbit Vista 3D printer, just months after the first of the systems shipped to Saint Gobain. At the show, Inkbit CEO Davide Marini explained how “industry thinks injured material jetting is for prototyping,” but the precision, volume, and scalability of his company’s new machine actually contradict this.

The machine allows for the creation of multi-material parts with fusible wax supports, and its build plate can be filled with a density of up to 42%, a figure Marini described as a “world record”. Thanks to its linear technology, he also suggested the system is flexible enough to one day be turned into a hybrid with accessories like robotic arms, although he adds that this remains a “long-term” ambition.

“We stand out and demonstrate that inkjet is actually the best technology for production,” concluded Marini. “Right now the biggest pull we’re seeing is in robotics. We’ve shipped the machine to a robotics company that makes components for warehouses, where you need to store goods and ship them . »

A build volume worth of Inkbit Vista-3D printed parts.  Photo by Paul Hanaphy.
A build volume of Inkbit Vista-3D printed parts. Photo by Paul Hanaphy.

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Featured image shows the entrance to McCormick Place, Chicago, during IMTS 2022. Photo by Paul Hanaphy.

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