Three Freeformer exhibits were on show at Arburg‘s Formnext 2018 booth, along with more examples of functional parts made using the Arburg Plastic Freeforming (APF) process than ever seen before. There was a world premiere of the Freeformer 300-3X, which for the first time enables the additive manufacturing of complex plastic parts from three materials in a durable hard/soft combination with a support structure. Four interactive stations will be available where trade visitors can test the quality and functionality of selected parts for themselves. Furthermore, two tried-and-tested
In addition, Freeformer 200-3X machines will be displayed, which are now available to rent at attractive terms. “We’ve not only expanded our portfolio with the new, larger Freeformer 300-3X with three discharge units, we are also offering a new rental model for the tried-and-tested 200-3X machine,” explains Lukas Pawelczyk, who is responsible for global Freeformer sales. “The APF process and our two Freeformers enable us to offer an interesting complementary manufacturing technology for the production of functional plastic parts and thus cover a very wide range of applications.”
Extended range of Freeformer 300-3x applications
The fact that Arburg Plastic Freeforming (APF) can achieve more than additively manufacturing samples and individualizing injection molding parts will be demonstrated by ARBURG at the Formnext 2018 using the new Freeformer 300-3X and two models of the proven Type 200-3X machine. These will additively process original plastics to produce “real” functional parts. The open system based on standard granulates is of interest for numerous industries.
“The Freeformer 300-3X marks another major step forward, enabling our customers to develop completely new applications,” says Martin Neff, Head of Plastic Freeforming at Arburg. “This open system can produce complex and durable functional parts in hard/soft combinations from qualified standard plastics and a support material offers more space and higher temperatures in the build chamber and can be automatically integrated into networked production lines.”
With the Freeformer 300-3X, the designation 300 stands for the available surface area of the platform in square centimeters. This is just under 50 percent larger than on the Freeformer 200-3X. The build chamber now offers space for larger small-volume batches and parts with dimensions of up to 234 x 134 x 230 millimeters. “3X” stands for the moving axes of the part carrier in the x, y and z directions. The Freeformer 300-3X has three directly heated discharge units. As an option, it can be equipped with only two
nozzles. Like its injection molding machines, the machine manufacturer Arburg also manufactures the Freeformers for industrial additive manufacturing centrally at its site at Lossburg in the Northern Black Forest region, offering quality “Made in Germany”. The company uses only high quality, durable components: the plasticizing unit is equipped with servo motors. The modern operating panel comprises a robust industrial PC with a multi-touch screen. The stable machine base accommodates the control cabinets and cooling system. The closed cooling system is also available with an optional industrial-grade cooling water connection. This will allow the processing of high-temperature materials at build chamber temperatures up to 200 degrees Celsius.
A two-part build chamber door is a new feature on the Freeformer 300-3X. This means, for example, that the material containers can be refilled during ongoing operation by opening the top half of the door. The heated build chamber now only needs to be opened for inserting the part platform and removing the finished parts.
Automatic opening and closing of the build chamber door as well as optional robot interfaces also enable automation of the additive manufacturing process and integration of the Freeformer in complete production lines. Above and beyond the additive manufacture of one-off parts and small-volume batches, high-volume parts can also be enhanced and customer wishes incorporated directly in the added value chain in batches as small as a single unit by combining additive manufacturing, injection molding and Industry 4.0 technologies.
A diversity of functional parts
Trade visitors to Formnext 2018 can also gain an impression of the capability of the three Freeformer exhibits based on numerous functional parts. These include a very thin and stretchable “spider membrane” and bellows made of medical grade TPE (Medalist, Shore A hardness 32), watertight water cups with closures made of standard PP and transparent test plates made from PMMA. For the first time, the Freeformer 300-3X used three components (ABS, TPU and support material Armat 21) to create durable hard/soft combinations for complex movable gripper fingers, haptically optimized toothbrush handles as well as ergonomic handles for power tools.
Arburg will present a selection of functional parts made from various original materials at four interactive stations. One example is a rope pulley on a crane boom to which a weight is applied. This functional part made of chemically resistant bio-polyamide (Grilamid BTR 600) has a load-bearing capacity of up to 120 kilograms.
Another one of the products making its debut at the formnext 2018 is a manual model that was rendered conductive with the help of carbon nanotubes and features capacitive sensors. This means, for example, that LEDs grow brighter or dimmer, depending on the proximity of the visitor’s hand to the sensor. An assembly for a pinball machine is both practical and entertaining. The complex part was made from ABS, PA10 and TPU.
New rental model
To make it easier for companies to get started with additive manufacturing, Arburg will be offering a new rental model for the Freeformer, launching at Formnext 2018. The new “all-in” package will assist customers by offering a high level of Arburg expertise with a low level of investment. The package includes the rental of a Freeformer 200-3X for twelve months at attractive terms, production of a benchmark part, extensive application support from Arburg and access to the company’s material database.
The customer can produce e.g. conventional functional parts, grippers, or assembly devices for in-house production from a qualified Arburg material for his product portfolio. The offer also includes training at Arburg, as well as individual in-house training on the customer’s premises. The focus is also on process-appropriate part configuration and design. “Furthermore, the customer can call on up to ten man-days of APF expert support if necessary,” explains Lukas Pawelczyk, Head of Freeformer Sales, pointing to another added value of the attractive new business model, underscoring that, “The ‘all-in’ package makes it particularly easy to get started with Arburg Plastic Freeforming in a cost-effective way without tying yourself down.” After a year, the customer can decide for himself whether he wishes to continue and how. The rent will be credited in case of purchase.