AMUG Conference Highlights Industrialization of Polymer 3D Printers

Exhibits at the conference this year included various examples of 3D printers being rethought and redesigned in pursuit of the speed, economy and reliability of industrial production. Polymer printers are leaving behind their roots in prototyping.

One theme I found among the technologies showcased at this year’s Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) Conference is the industrialization of polymer 3D printers. In the past, additive manufacturing machines for plastics have tended to be enlarged or amplified versions of machines developed for prototyping. By contrast, the 2019 AMUG Conference included various additive equipment makers showing redesigned offerings—machines or machine technology departing from traditional design or capabilities to address the needs of industrial use. Examples:

  • EOS. The company’s Integra P 400 is the first 3D printer from the Germany-based company to be designed and developed in North America, a distinction the EOS staff at AMUG was proud to raise. The North-American-designed selective laser sintering (SLS) machine emphasizes, among other important features, greater ease of service compared to other company machine designs, addressing a key concern of industrial users.
  • Farsoon. The company showed parts made with its new “Flight” technology, which combines fast laser scanning speed with a tight laser focus diameter to achieve fine details at high speeds in SLS. The intended application is a production batch or part family full of precisely detailed parts all printed in a single build.
  • Titan Robotics. The company demonstrated its “hybrid” 3D printer, with hybrid in this context meaning fused filament fabrication (FFF) using both a filament head and a head extruding material supplied in the pellet form typical of injection molding. 3D printing with pellets allows for lower material cost, a broader selection of materials, and high build rates relative to filament, while the filament-fed head available in parallel allows for smoother features and/or the use of dissolvable support structures in the same build.
  • Essentium. The polymer 3D printer at AMUG most fully designed for industrial production likely was this company’s High Speed Extrusion machine, a 3D printer built on a platform derived from machines making semiconductors. Using linear motors in X and Y and ballscrews in Z to achieve precise high-speed motion, this FFF machine looks and moves not like a machine with origins in prototyping, but in fact much more like a CNC machine tool.

 

See some of these printers and parts they’ve made in this playlist of videos filmed at AMUG:

 

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