The Arburg Freeformer has received its official UK launch this month, with its use of standard granulate polymer the key factor for the injection moulding specialists’ move into 3D printing.
A change in materials might not sound like much, but costing roughly €3 per kilo compared to a specialist 3D printing material costing 100 times that amount, there’s a strong case for materials costing.
Of course, this material is the same used in the injection moulding process, so should allow prototypes built on the machine to maintain a lot of the same properties.
The process uses a stationary discharge unit with a special nozzle that applies plastic droplets layer-by-layer onto a movable part carrier using high-frequency technology at a specified duty cycle of 60 to 200 Hertz. The droplets fuse together on cooling.
At the launch we were told that there is a range of nozzles available, varying from 150 to 250 microns.
The Freeformer is equipped with a movable three-axis part carrier and two stationary nozzles units as standard. The second discharge unit can be used for an additional component in order to produce parts with different colours, special tactile qualities, or as a hard-soft combination.
At the launch the machine was announced with a 100°C chamber temperature and maximum material melting temperature of 350°C. This should allow for a wide range of granular materials, including ABS, TPE-U, PC + PA.
A cup fabricated using the Freeformer was demonstrated by Martin Neff, technology consultant for the Freeformer. The cup’s walls were watertight under normal pressure, because of how the droplets melt fully with the layer underneath, compared to some additive manufacturing techniques that produce more porous surfaces.
“With the Freeformer we want to ensure that we always achieve constant material displacement. If we have a high or low viscosity, we can adjust the pressure accordingly,” said Neff.
“The introduction of the Freeformer is a huge technological step for our company,” said Arburg managing director Colin Tirel. “We have always considered ourselves a technology innovator not a technology adopter and this is a superb example of this philosophy.
“It will enable us to offer our customers cutting edge technology which we can strategically align with our injection moulding and robot application technology portfolio to meet our customer’s short and long term requirements.”
The Freeform is expected to cost around €150,000.