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3D Printing for the engineering and manufacturing sectors

Additive Manufacturing (AM), or 3D Printing as it's more popularly known, is a game-changing technology for the engineering and manufacturing sectors. It is literally transforming how products are conceived, designed, and manufactured and one company at the forefront of the 'Industrial Revolution 2.0' is Belgium-based AM experts, Materialise. PIF takes a closer look at their model services.

Materialise are Europe's Largest Single-Site Factory for Additive Manufacturing. Headquartered in Leuven, Belgium – but with sites across Europe – their international team of specialized designers, CAD engineers and more than 80 Additive Manufacturing machines, have brought them to the attention of the manufacturing world, following 20 years of innovation and growth.

What products do Materialise offer?

Materialise's list of products and services is as long as it is impressive. The following are just a few of it's many 3D Printing specialisms:

Stereolithography: Starting from a 3D image, a part is built slice by slice from bottom to top in a vessel of liquid polymer that hardens when struck by a laser beam. A next day service, the first 24 hour service for online ordering of stereolithography prototypes, is available for orders placed before 12 noon CET. Meanwhile, their unique Mammoth Stereolithography technology allows for large components (bigger than two metres) to be built in one piece, on exclusive mammoth prototyping machines, and serve as fully functional parts.

Laser Sintering: Parts are built layer by layer, with the basic material consisting of powder with particle sizes of 50 µm. Successive powder layers are spread on top of each other, then a computer-controlled CO2 laser beam scans the surface and selectively binds together the powder particles of the corresponding cross section of the product. The powder temperature rises above the glass transition point, allowing adjacent particles to flow together. Laser sintering is suitable for larger amounts of components, even for series of 50 to 100 pieces and more.

FDM: The Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) process constructs three-dimensional objects directly from 3D CAD data. It starts with importing an STL file of a model into a pre-processing software, which is oriented and mathematically sliced into horizontal layers varying from +/- 0.127 - 0.254 mm thickness. After reviewing the path data, and generating the tool paths, the data is downloaded to the FDM machine. This operates in X, Y and Z axes, drawing the model one layer at a time, in a process similar to how a hot glue gun extrudes melted beads of glue.

Vacuum Casting: Using cast silicone moulds, a master model (typically originating from stereolithography or selective laser sintering) is carefully prepared to ensure a high quality finish to the surface and the definition of the parting planes. Silicone is then cast around the master, partially under vacuum, in order to avoid air bubbles being trapped in between the master and silicone. After curing, the mould is cut according to the parting planes and the master is removed, leaving a cavity to make copies.

Reaction Injection Moulding (RIM): R.I.M. (Reaction Injection Moulding) is a technique to produce plastic parts by low-pressure injection of thermoset resins in moulds. Different types of moulds are applicable, among which resin moulds are the most frequently used. Materialise focuses on small series moulds, built around a master part produced by rapid prototyping methods such as stereolithography or HSM. Different moulds are used, depending on trade off series, size of the part and speed.

They also excel in PolyJet technology, ColorJet Printing, Hand Lay-Up and Tetrashell TM. For more information visit www.materialise.com.

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