AIM3D, a manufacturer of multi-material 3D printers, has developed a new, more powerful 3D printer for its CEM (composite extrusion modeling) process. The new ExAM 510 presents a larger build area, higher precision, and faster build rates than the previous ExAM 255 model from AIM3D. As a multi-material printer for additive manufacturing, the system can print up to three different materials in parallel. The new model will be on show as a prototype at Formnext 2021. After a beta phase with pilot processors, the ExAM 510 is planned to be ready for series production in time for Formnext 2022, according to the manufacturer.
Setting new standards with the ExAM 510
As the latest addition to the Rostock company’s product line-up, the ExAM 510 printer is a further development of the smaller EXAM 255 model. The innovative multi-material printer can process up to three materials. This allows for two building materials and support materials. The extended build platform of 510 x 510 x 400 mm enables a multitude of applications. The build area can be heated up to 200ºC in order to reduce stresses in the component and to process high-performance materials. It also features a considerably increased build rate, depending on the material, of up to 250 cm³/h (when using a 0.4 mm nozzle).
The ExAM 510 concept enables significantly increased precision of printed components. The objective of developing the machine was to get even more out of the patented AIM3D extruder technology. This extruder class enables an output up to 10 times higher than standard filament extruders. The use of linear motors and a stable mineral cast bed makes extremely precise operation possible even at high speeds, thus fully exploiting the potential of the technology.
Advantages of diverse materials
The use of a wide range of materials is the particular appeal of the ExAM 510. AIM3D equips the machine with a heated process chamber specially designed for high-temperature plastics. This enables the processing of high-temperature plastics such as PEEK, PEI, PSU, PPS, with and without fiber filling. Corresponding experience with the extruders had already been gained with the ExAM 255. This means that a user can, for example, process PEEK, either unfilled or filled with fiber material, directly in pellet form in additive manufacturing. This results in an enormous cost advantage in terms of the raw materials. Recycling this material is also much easier and cheaper.
According to the manufacturer, a material can be tested in 1 to 2 working days and established for production in 5 to 10 working days. The material PEEK, for example, demonstrates these high-cost savings most clearly: if the price for PEEK filament is around €700/kg used on conventional additive manufacturing machines, the ExAM 510 can use PEEK pellets, as deployed in classic injection molding. The market price of around €50/kg for PEEK pellets amounts to only 7% of comparable material costs or a cost reduction by a factor of 14. This opens up completely new dimensions in terms of cost efficiencies.
Processes and applications
AIM3D’s Composite Extrusion Modelling (CEM) combines metal injection molding (MIM), which is already established worldwide, with process technologies from additive manufacturing. This is based on both fused deposition modeling (FDM process) and selective laser melting (SLM process), thus creating an optimal blend of conventional production methods and innovative additive manufacturing.
The result is a very simple process, based on inexpensive and widely available injection molding pellets while offering the freedom of additive manufacturing without the need for molds. The CEM process not only significantly lowers material costs, but also drastically cuts machine costs. Common problems in metal manufacturing, such as residual stresses, are significantly reduced with the CEM process.
The company also implements a Fused Granulate Modelling (FGM) process which is an additive manufacturing process and is based on the widely used thermoplastic melt layer process (FDM/FFF). The print head processes pellets into a thin melt thread and applies it to the build area. Thanks to the automatic generation of support material, more complex shapes can also be realized, enabling custom-made production or prototype production in injection molding technology. In contrast to the common melt-layer processes, such as fused filament fabrication (FFF), FGM does not use an elaborately produced filament, but conventional series-production thermoplastic injection molding pellets.
Classic areas of application for high-performance polymer materials can be found in automotive, medical technology, or aerospace. AIM3D’s pilot customers are from these industries. Clemens Lieberwirth, CTO at AIM3D: “The further development of our patented ExAM 255 machine into the ExAM 510 is a technological leap for us. So you could say we are now offering a faster, bigger, hotter, and more precise CEM process technology for additive manufacturing.”