Industry – 3D printing of components with inbuilt functionality in one manufacturing step
Additive manufacturing allows tool-less production and maximum freedom of design
Sustainable energy efficiency, constant cost pressures, special-purpose parts in short-run productions, unrelenting deadline pressures – industrial companies are confronted with many challenges. The production of small runs, however, can scarcely be cost effective with conventional, tool-based methods. Moreover, responding quickly to a changed part geometry just before the start of production involves a lot of work and costs. This can jeopardize delivery to schedule, for instance, at parts suppliers.
Additive Manufacturing provides industrial companies with completely new solutions for realising tool-less production methods. The technology gives designers maximum freedom of design. Providing material only where it is needed for mechanical strength or functionality, this solution can also manufacture lightweight parts with highly complex geometries.
An EOS system can produce components with inbuilt functionality in the one manufacturing step. Tool-less Additive Manufacturing is a thoroughly cost effective solution especially for the serial production of small quantities. Changes to part geometries can be transferred to production at any time, and risks to scheduled deliveries are no longer a problem. One other advantage is the practically unlimited availability of spare parts, which can be manufactured as and when they are needed.
In addition, Additive Manufacturing operates with essentially greater material efficiency than machining methods. A laser sintering machine applies the powdered material only to those sites where it is meant to be applied. Unfused material can be
EOS Additive Manufacturing technology – Industry best-practice examples
Industry: Anubis 3D – 3D-printed end-of-arm for smarter packaging
An innovative, industrial, 3D-printed end-of-arm enables Langen Group to lighten the load on their customer’s robotic packaging line
New robots for the pick-n-pack line were already on order when the major American food producer’s equipment supplier, Lan
gen Group, began designing the end-of-arm tool that would enable the robots to pick up wrapped, stacked crackers and place them into cardboard boxes. The engineers than ran into a challenge: the tool had to be extremely light. What seemed to be almost impossible turned out to be quite easy by relying on additive manufacturing. Anubis developed a clever solution for the Langen Group using EOS systems.
To achieve maximum speed without upsetting the center of gravity of the robots, the tool—plus the weight of the product itself – couldn’t weigh more than two kilograms. But the largest load of crackers on the line was 1.5 kilos for a ten-pack. That left only 500 grams with which to design the perfect tool. “Meeting these requirements would have been impossible with aluminum and sheet metal. To handle a heavier metal tool they would have had to reorder larger robots, which would have been more expensive—and they were also under extreme time constraints”, says Anubis president Tharwat Fouad.
Furthermore, the tool needed to be quick-release, quick-connect, so operators could change from one size to another without bolts and nuts adding assembly time. “In all, there were two completely different configurations, different shapes and three box sizes consisting of two small boxes at one time and one large box,” says Fouad. “They wanted a single tool that could handle it all, weigh no more than half a kilo, and they wanted it as soon as possible.”
As in case of previous projects, Fouad and his team spent some time looking at the market, evaluating which manufacturing technology would best serve their customers. “We found that most of the manufacturers that bought into plastics-based additive manufacturing did so for rapid prototyping,” says Fouad. “But our reasons were completely different. We envisioned a number of opportunities for functional, end-use components, and felt industrial 3D printing was the best technology for such applications.”
Once the decision to pursue additive manufacturing was made, Fouad performed a detailed analysis of the many different types of equipment available before deciding on a FORMIGA P 100 system from EOS. “Within a few days of delivery, EOS had us up and running. The system was quite easy to learn. EOS was there with us through it all, to the point where we became experts ourselves on the equipment. Now, several years later, we remain very happy with our decision.”
“The biggest challenge to additive manufacturing acceptance“, Fouad says, “is changing decades-old ways of thinking. The conversion from metal to plastic is possible, especially if it’s done scientifically. You need to focus on part geometry, and throw out traditional concerns over part complexity. EOS technology has no such constraints.“
Equally important to Fouad’s vision of end-use products was material selection—EOS powder-bed fusion technology utilizes engineering-grade polyamides, polystyrenes, thermoplastic elastomers, and polyaryletherketones, for example. “The system gives us the ability to build a virtually endless array of parts, using materials that are widely accepted in the industry,” Fouad says. It uses a powerful laser paired with precision optics to quickly and accurately produce parts. The laser beam hereby fuses the powder material layer by layer to produce highly complex parts.
The benefits of EOS technology quickly became clear. One of Anubis’ first successes was an end-of-arm tool for a blow molding application, which Fouad says inspired his team and opened their mind to what’s possible with plastic additive manufacturing. They’ve since designed a number of similar tools for injection molding and bottle packaging customers, as well as various brackets and supports, helping Anubis earn a name for itself as an innovator in these and other industries. As a result, the company has since purchased two additional systems from EOS.
In the case of the major American food manufacturer job for Langen Group, instead of a more traditional metal vacuum plate and shroud (which would have taken months to design and manufacture), Anubis designed a lighter, streamlined set of components that provided four times the gripping force of legacy vacuum grippers. It took only a week to additively manufacture, assemble and test the new tool.
The material used for the main vacuum part was nylon 12 (PA 2200 material from EOS), chosen for its flexibility, ability to sustain crash loads, and because it is certified as USP Class VI approved for food contact. The wall thickness of the vacuum cup was between 2 and 3.5 mm and varied from section to section. The parts were designed specifically for industrial 3D printing with the help of a software program that optimizes the design of structures organically, following the lines of the geometry and adjusting the thickness as needed for strength and/or flexibility. “The efficiency of the redesigned profile we produced with EOS technology enabled the gripper to suck so well you could actually hang on it with your own weight,” says Fouad. “Our customer had never seen that level of performance before.”
The vacuum grippers were delivered to Langen Group and installed on the newly arrived robots at the food producer’s plant. “To design and produce tooling capable of picking what we wanted, while still staying within the payload constraints of the robot, would have been impossible before,” says Langen Group Engineering Manager Robert Husnik. “Due to the freedom provided by plastics additive manufacturing, we can now do the impossible.”
“I tell people that, unlike traditional manufacturing, complexity is free with additive manufacturing,” Fouad says. “A designer can come up with all sorts of wild ideas and no one will complain. You can reduce part weight, maintain strength, and deliver nice looking products with greater functionality, in less time and at lower cost than ever before. It’s a real manufacturing shift.”
Tharwat Fouad, President Anubis
Anubis 3D is a division of Anubis Manufacturing Consultants Corporation. The company is based in Mississauga, Ontario and specializes in custom digital manufacturing such as industrial 3D printing.
Industry: Beta LAYOUT – Multi-dimensional circuit carriers using additive manufacturing
Prototypes for new printed circuit boards (PCBs) created with EOS technology
At the beginning of 2016, many people were writing about the end of Moore’s Law, anticipating that the performance of computer
chips would no longer be doubling every two years. The reason for this is that the structures on the processors themselves are already within a few
nanometers of what is possible. Further reductions are almost impossible from a technical point of view. In order to continue improving performance, manufacturers are working on the architecture, which stacks multiple structural layers on top of one another. A similar approach has already been established within the field of circuit carriers. The German firm of Beta LAYOUT GmbH has successfully harnessed EOS technology to manufacture and test the prototypes for these innovative carriers.
Circuit carriers and traditional PCBs have always been a little overshadowed by the microprocessors that operate on them. This is somewhat unjust because, of course, having the best brain is of little use without the benefits of a high-performance central nervous system. It’s a similar story in the microelectronics sector: almost all contemporary devices require a circuit board in order to incorporate one or more chips, plus the additionally required electrical components. This creates a network that fulfills a range of tasks, from supplying of electricity, circuitry, through to the output of signals.
In new devices, there is often only a very small amount of installation space available for conventional circuit boards. One reason for this is that a lot of electronic equipment is becoming ever smaller; and even when the form itself is larger, there tends to be very little space left over for the actual electronics. The existing volume is required for housing screens, for example, more and more interfaces and output points, as well as larger batteries. The time when a simple lab PCB was sufficient for the experimental construction of new circuitry are now, in most cases and most sectors, long gone. Alongside the available installation space, weight is a key factor – compact, three-dimensionally constructed circuit boards also have an important role to play here.
With contemporary electronic products, the circuitry often has to compete for the limited space within the housing. When conventionally stacked, PCBs can no longer accommodate all of the necessary components, so that the aforementioned three-dimensional circuit carriers become the solution of choice. Here again, the ever-shorter life cycles of many devices pose additional challenges: injection molding is far too expensive to manufacture prototypes. For this reason, Beta LAYOUT GmbH decided to search for a cheaper, high-performance alternative.
There is no technology better suited to the demands of multi-layer architecture than additive manufacturing. This is because it uses a laser to build up a component, layer by layer. This is why Beta LAYOUT relies on the technology and uses plastic parts manufactured by 3D printing. The innovation takes place after the printing process itself; once they’ve been made, the models are coated with a special finish that is furnished with an additive. The subsequent so-called ‘laser direct structuring’ (LDS) generates layouts, which can be turned into conductor tracks by activating the finish.
The laser triggers a physical-chemical reaction that creates metallic spores while simultaneously roughening the surface. After laser direct structuring, the models are placed in a copper bath free of electric current. There, copper particles are deposited on the previously activated areas to create conductor tracks. After copper coating, the conductor tracks can undergo further copper plating through galvanization, or be directly furnished with a surface finish. After this, Beta LAYOUT then adds the individual components to the unit in the company’s internal assembly department. The finished pieces serve as initial prototypes and models, allowing function testing and a check of design layouts.
“We offer manufacturing of 3D-MID (mechatronic integrated devices) as prototypes for diverse companies,” explains Manuel Martin, Product Manager 3D-MID at Beta LAYOUT GmbH. “Working with EOS’ FORMIGA P 110, we are in a position to deliver high-quality products to our customers fast. What’s particularly practical in all this is that we are even able to deal with orders of 3D models via websites and online shops. Additive manufacturing has enabled us to successfully expand our business model.”
Whether for individual developers or large established companies, additive manufacturing ensures that custom-made circuit carriers can be used for the prototypes of new electronic devices. The plastic components can be produced quickly and at an attractive price. The process simultaneously offers the nessary level of precision and high component-quality, allowing the required basic body to be manufactured as if it were already a close-to series product – an aspect that should not be underestimated, particularly with test runs.
The EOS technology also provides a high degree of flexibility: the machine used is able to process various materials, including, for example, PA 3200 GF which is filled with glass beads, or the aluminum-filled polyamide Alumide. High-performance polymers such as PEEK and various metals are also available. The crucial point is that all the materials are capable of withstanding high temperatures, a limitation of the injection-molding process in series production. Because of this flexibility, Beta LAYOUT is able to fulfill the various individual requirements of its customers, for example, by responding to the particular characteristics of the intended purpose of the circuit carrier. In this way, the company can develop individual, optimized solutions, be this in terms of lower costs, a higher degree of temperature resistance, or any other specific requirements.
Besides these advantages, additive manufacturing also offers another additional bonus: “Ultimately, what we are experiencing here is a democratization of advanced technology. Without innovations such as this, we would not be able to offer 3D-MID as a service at all,” says Manuel Martin. “This would mean that many smaller companies and development houses would have no chance of realizing such prototypes. Consequently, the much talked-about innovation and creative power of small and medium-sized companies would lose momentum and the research and development sector would be a lot less dynamic.” Additive manufacturing is a catalyst for further innovation– and, in this way, perhaps a point of departure towards establishing a new Moore’s Law.
Eos case study industry payout laser routing and content
Manufacturing steps for mechatronic integrated devices (MID) via laser direct structuring (source: Beta LAYOUT)
“Thanks to its many advantages, additive manufacturing technology offers high added value for a broad range of market participants. Research and development profits through our services, which, in turn, has a positive impact on our business model. This enables us to offer the benefits of advanced technology to a large number of users.”
Beta LAYOUT GmbH is a leading manufacturer of printed circuit boards and 3D-MID prototypes, and a provider of 3D printing services.
Industry: Euro-K – 3D printed micro-burners for the optimized combustion of gaseous and liquid fuel
Small burners, big variety Euro-K designs and builds micro-burners featuring EOS technology
For centuries, a streamlined prow was believed to be the only practical shape for the front section of a boat hull until David Watson Taylor invented the bulbous bow. This nose-shaped design allows the water to flow perfectly around the boat almost without any bow waves. A new shape therefore allowed an undreamed-of increase in efficiency. Euro-K experienced something similar with the construction of optimized burner geometry for gases and liquids by using Additive Manufacturing technology provided by EOS.
During the combustion of gaseous and liquid fuels, various methods are used to prepare the fuel and form the fuel / air mixture. Whereas the mixture formation with gaseous fuels can be achieved using relatively simple mechanisms, it always represents a challenge with liquid fuels.
The reason? Liquid fuels need to be mixed in a suitable manner with the combustion air. But before this can take place, the surface area of the liquid fuel must be greatly increased. This is generally done by spraying it in a very fine spray using pneumatic, mechanical or pressure differential principles.
This means that the availability of burners that support the use of gaseous as well as liquid fuels of all compositions is greatly limited. Euro-K refused to accept this and set about developing optimized burner geometry. The idea was for the geometry to make the types and formats of fuel usable without having to change the burner. The burner’s volume was also reduced to a minimum. The challenge therefore lay in the demand for flexibility, minimized product size and integral functionality.
The production technology to match this challenge was quickly located: Additive Manufacturing. With this process, a laser builds the product layer by layer from a fine metal powder. Euro-K benefited from the design freedom that this solution offered. Unlike conventional production methods, the limits to manufacturability, such as those experienced with machining or the flow properties of cooling cast materials, were virtually non-existent. EOS technology is also able to produce small batch sizes cost-effectively, allowing assembly costs to be reduced by 20%. Euro-K was also more than familiar with the innovative technology, since the company had already established a considerable level of expertise in the past through a number of projects.
Euro-K GmbH offers a unique portfolio of services. Managing Partner Sebastian Kießling explains: “We not only have a successful history in the design of efficient burners for various fuels, but we also have considerable expertise in Additive Manufacturing. For our customers, we have designed a burner that allows fuels in various physical states to be used and which also demonstrates a low component volume.” In addition to experience and equipment the project team used an EOS M 290 from technology supplier EOS Euro-K was also able to access a further, highly valuable resource: its own test rig and simulation technology. This made it possible to start development with an already high level of maturity.
For the actual design work, CAD software was used that allowed its data to be transferred quickly and easily to the EOS system following definition of the final shape and size of the burner. In terms of material, the project team chose EOS NickelAlloy IN718, a heat and corrosion-resistant nickel alloy that has excellent tensile strength, resilience, creep resistance and fracture resistance at temperatures up to 700 °C. With this material and this production technology, the engineers created the perfect burner ready for use in the micro-gas turbines of a Berlin-based plant builder.
The new burner is able to use gaseous and liquid fuels equally effectively. The new, optimized geometry also allows the use of liquid fuels that are classified as difficult to burn, such as fusel oils that are created from the distillation of alcohol. Another positive effect is that the burner’s innovative design allowed that the size of the combustion chamber to be reduced by 20%.
There is another advantage for end users, however: up to now, the plant operator had to choose the type and format of the fuel used. It was therefore impossible to offset the fluctuating prices of different fuels, since switching to a different fuel was generally impossible or only possible with costly and time-intensive conversions of the micro-gas turbines. The new burner design brings a considerable degree of flexibility for users.
Frieder Neumann, Deputy Head of Micro-Gas Turbine Development at Bilfinger in Berlin, confirmed the advantages: “The actual combustion process has been optimized, we are able to guarantee our customers the freedom of choice in terms of fuel, and switching to other fuels after the plant has been purchased can be easily arranged. Euro-K is also able to offer the technology at an attractive price. We are absolutely delighted by our partner’s expertise in design and production, as well as by the EOS technology that makes it possible.” This once again demonstrates that it can sometimes be worth rethinking established practices and breaking new ground not just in shipbuilding.
“EOS technology gave us the opportunity to offer exactly the right solution for our customers who have a specific challenge. Our many years of experience in the industry, coupled with our expertise in Additive Manufacturing, enabled us to achieve measurable added value for users.”
Euro-K GmbH offers first-class development services in the field of small energy converters. Its portfolio ranges from advice on energy technology issues, including process analysis and optimization, to project planning, simulation, testing and production.
Case Study: Siemens – 3D-printed gas turbine blades
Rapid Prototyping with additive manufacturing solutions by EOS
Additive manufacturing is ideally suited for Rapid Prototyping. Thanks to the highest possible degree of design freedom, even complex shapes such as bionic structures can be manufactured. It is possible to manufacture physical presentation and functional prototypes quickly and cost-efficiently without the need for manual processing – directly using three-dimensional CAD construction data. This makes the entire product development process considerably faster.
Flexible construction and material variants
EOS systems build up prototypes as well as end products layer-by-layer. Different metal and plastic powder materials are available. Products made of different materials belonging to one material family (metal or plastic) can be processed on one machine. This is especially interesting for prototype manufacturing.
Companies in many sectors of industry are now making successful use of laser sintering processes in their development and manufacturing processes.
EOS Quality: Result of extensive experience and the highest manufacturing standards
EOS continuously monitors the quality of all components at every process step in the value-added chain and holds the relevant product certifications and validations
The aim of EOS quality policy is to identify current customer needs and future market demands early on and meet these by means of the appropriate organisational, technological and economic resources. This is the only way to ensure the success and competitiveness of the company in the long term.
The cornerstones of our quality policy are:
EOS has defined quality principles which we implement throughout the entire company:
- Our quality benchmark is the satisfaction of our customers
- We strive to achieve an outstanding level of quality in all products and services
- Secure organisational and technological processes allow us to maintain our high quality standards both reliably and economically
- Every employee endeavours to produce work of impeccable quality and avoid errors
- Every employee contributes to achieving our company goals and improving quality through responsible, quality-conscious action
- We promote awareness of quality in every employee by providing training programs and information events
The key factor in implementing our quality policy is management acting as a role model of our principles. For this reason, the managing directors and every manager in the company are committed to align their day-to-day actions with the defined quality policy.
EOS quality management is focused on development and continuous improvement using the best methods available, both in terms of organisation as well as processes, systems and product. This is done in partnership with all colleagues and departments. In this way we are able to meet customer demands, our company goals and legal requirements in an efficient manner.
EOS documents its high standards by means of important certifications of its quality management system.
- EOS GmbH: certified according to ISO 9001 since 1998 for development, manufacturing, sales and service of systems and solutions for Additive Manufacturing using laser sintering technology
- EOS Finland Oy: Certified according to ISO 9001 for design, manufacture and sales of metal materials and processes for EOSINT M systems. Also certified according to ISO 13485 and Directive 93/42/EEC for medical applications with Cobalt Chrome SP2 registered as class II medical product in EU for dental applications.
- KVS GmbH: certified according to ISO 9001 for the development, production, testing and sales of polyamide powders and mixtures
EOS updates the QM processes according to standards in the medical and aerospace industries and according to GMP. EOS continuously monitors the quality of all components at every process step in the value-added chain. EOS also holds the relevant product certifications and validations (IQ, OQ, PQ) for all components of the Additive Manufacturing process. This includes processes and finished parts on the customer side as well as regulatory certificates and registrations in global markets.