Swedish company Freemelt AB has unveiled its latest solution, ProHeat, a system for preheating the powder bed in electron beam powder bed fusion (E-PBF) 3D printers. The company says that the preheating technology (patent pending), which is still in development, will be integrated in future Freemelt 3D printing systems.
Based in Mölndal, Freemelt is a developer of open source electron beam-based additive manufacturing technology. The young company got its start in 2017 and it has since been recognized as one of the top 33 startups in Sweden in 2020 by national trade media. A year ago, the company secured a hefty investment ($1.5 million) from Industrifonden, a Stockholm-based venture capital investor, to accelerate the development of its Freemelt One system.
The newly unveiled ProHeat technology will facilitate the preheating process for the powder bed, bringing it to the optimal temperature for printing in a safe, even way. As Ulf Ackelid, Senior Scientist at Freemelt, explained: “ProHeat makes it possible to heat and sinter the powder bed in a gentle and uniform manner, without exposing it to electric charge. This makes it much easier and more efficient to build parts from fine powders and from powders of poor conductivity. ProHeat will speed up development of new E-PBF materials since it eliminates the time-consuming optimization of preheating parameters.”
ProHeat consists of an electromagnetic radiation heating device which is positioned over the powder bed. This heat source sinters every powder layer smoothly, with no risk of powder charging or “smoke events”. Compared to other E-PBF preheating solutions, Freemelt says ProHeat offers faster and more efficient heating, no electron interactions, the highest vacuum purity, optimum beam quality and uniform sintering, which reduces the amount of spatter. Moreover, ProHeat does not require a high-quality inert gas, such as helium or argon, which can be costly.
“We are very optimistic about this innovation,” said Ulric Ljungblad, Freemelt CEO. “ProHeat is an enabler for robust, efficient processing and expands the potential of E-PBF to new classes of materials that are difficult or even impossible to process in E-PBF systems as of today.”
Freemelt will be showcasing its upcoming ProHeat technology at the upcoming EBAM 2020 virtual conference, held online from October 5 to 7, 2020.