As companies like HP and Desktop Metal prepare to enter the metal binder jetting production arena, one of the pioneers of this technology, Digital Metal, remains at the forefront of additive manufacturing of metal components. Introduced in 2013, the company’s unique, high precision binder-jetting technology has already enabled the production of more than 300,000 components. Now the new Digital Metal vision focuses on automating the process for even greater throughput capabilities
Several Digital Metal DM P2500 printers are already in serial production generating series of up to 40,000 components. In 2018, additional delivery agreements were signed with major European players in the automotive and aerospace segment. Now, Digital Metal takes yet another step towards the future by launching a fully automated no-hand production concept.
In the Digital Metal vision, the majority of the process steps will be handled by a robot, which will eliminate practically all manual work thus further increasing productivity. The robot will feed the printer with build boxes and then move the boxes for post-treatment in a CNC-operated de-powdering machine combined with a pick-and-place robot. There, the remaining metal powder will be removed and recycled, and the parts placed on sintering plates. The main robot will then move the plates to the sintering furnace for combined debinding and sintering, either in batches or for continuous production.
“Most AM technologies show a very low level of automation”, says Ralf Carlström, General Manager at Digital Metal. “Our aim is to change that. With the new no-hand production line, our customers can further improve their productivity and lower the production costs. Almost all manually intensive work can be eliminated and in addition, the powders removed in the cleaning machine can be recirculated in the process, thus minimizing waste. As we see it, the Digital Metal technology is now applicable for serial production of high-volume components.”
The Digital Metal vision also introduces automation during the powder removal step as an initial step towards full no-hand production. During de-powdering, the CNC-controlled movements are based on the information from the printing process. All removed powder is collected and recycled without any degeneration of properties.
“We believe there is a huge potential for our unique technology,” says Ralf Carlström. “Not only is it very fast and cost-effective, but it is also able to create complicated and highly detailed designs with a wide material choice.”