Danish startup AddiFab is not short on ambition, as it aims to level the materials playing field between additive manufacturing and injection molding by combining the two processes. The young company, which has been developing its hybrid AM technology for the past four years, will soon present its process at the upcoming RAPID + TCT show in Detroit alongside Mitsubishi Chemical.
AddiFab’s technology is called Freeform Injection Molding (FIM), and it combines AM and injection molding to produce injection mold cavities. The simple but effective process enables the use of PEEK and other high-performance materials as well as the production of highly complex parts.
“We use our proprietary platform to create injection mold cavities,” explained Jon Jessen, AddiFab co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer. “These cavities are tough enough to process reinforced PEEK and other high-performance materials. They are also dissolvable, which allows us to injection-mold components that are too complex for conventional tooling. One example of the technology usage is to support generative design on an injection molding platform.”
The main goal of the technology is to bridge the materials gap that exists between injection molding—which is compatible with an extremely broad range of materials—and 3D printing—which, at this point, is much more limited.
“Injection molding—with a much richer legacy and R&D budgets dwarfing those of the AM industry—is churning out hundreds of specialized grades for every generic grade that is being converted to additive,” elaborated Lasse Staal, CEO and co-gounder of AddiFab. “And the materials converted to AM lose out on performance, compared with their injection-molded twins. But the race for materials is about to be thoroughly changed by AddiFab.”
Jeff Gerbec, Regional Manager for the Americas for Mitsubishi Chemical, added: “Additive manufacturing has enabled design freedom and many other benefits in nearly every industry segment. However, there are many challenges with the technology that create barriers to achieving the quality and properties of manufactured end use parts that are comparable with isotropic manufacturing.
“While Mitsubishi Chemical produces a wide range of high-performance materials that are ideal for AM today, we are also very interested to leverage our thousands of existing grades of high-performance materials with the usage of technologies such as AddiFab’s FIM.”
Recently, AddiFab has been testing specific grades of Mitsubishi Chemical’s Tefabloc high-performance TPE materials with its Freeform Injection Molding process. According to the company, the material is one of the easiest-to-mold elastomers it has worked with. Going forward, the company will soon begin testing Mitsubishi Chemical’s KyronMax reinforced polymers—some of the company’s most competitive materials for metal replacement in structural applications.
“With Freeform Injection Molding, we can achieve outstanding material properties on an additive platform while using our current feedstocks,” said Gerbec. “We are currently testing KyronMAX’s high-performance property retention when used with FIM technology, and the first results are very promising.”