In addition to announcing a partnership with United Launch Alliance to 3D print rocket components this week, Oerlikon AM has revealed an alliance with Hirtenberger Engineered Services, a specialist in post-processing metal printed parts. Through the partnership, the companies are striving to industrialize 3D printed parts for end-use and prototyping applications.
The Hirtisation Process
Oerlikon AM and Hirtenberger have been working together since the beginning of 2019, evaluating the Hirtisation Process—a post-processing solution for AM that is capable of three-dimensional surface treatment. The process can be used to remove supports from metal parts and can achieve highly smooth surface textures.
The process, pioneered by Hirtenberger Engineered Services, consists of three steps. In the first, support structures and powder cake are removed from the part and surface roughness is reduced substantially (from around Ra 100 μm to about Ra 10 μm). In the second step, the part’s surface roughness is reduced to about Ra 2 μm, a surface quality suitable for most industrial applications. The third, optional, step is a high polishing process which imparts a decorative, ultra smooth finish of below Ra 0.5 μm.
Evaluating the process
In the first stage of their cooperation, Oerlikon and Hirtenberger Engineered Services discovered that the Hirtisation Process was able to process parts with geometries that were previously difficult or impossible to finish with other surface treatment methods. Going forward from this vital realization, Oerlikon AM and Hirtenberger are now deepening their strategic alliance with a joint working group that will explore how the process can be integrated into the AM value chain.
The ability to post-process extremely complex components with improved surface finish is a huge advantage in certain industries, which rely on the design freedom AM creates. Through the collaboration, Oerlikon AM and Hirtenberger will focus primarily on the turbomachinery, oil and gas, automotive and general industry sectors.
Ultimately, the goal is to implement the post-processing approach to reduce costs and improve part repeatability. The partners will also look to prototyping applications, as the Hirtisation Process could improve productivity substantially by consolidating post-printing steps.
“For Oerlikon AM, the Hirtisation Process addresses one of AM’s major challenges, which is to provide our customers with parts with more complex geometries—some of which are not possible nor economical with existing AM and post-processing technologies,” said Dr. Christian Haecker, Head of Oerlikon AM Industrialization. “The process fits perfectly in our desire to offer customers services and products along the entire value chain. We also see a benefit in increasing repeatability of defined AM surface quality.”
“We provide a crucial step in the process chain of 3D printing of metal parts,” added Dr. Wolfgang Hansal, Managing Director of Hirtenberger Engineered Surfaces. “We see ourselves as an industrial enabler of automated surface finishing. We maintain the full freedom of the printed parts design, while allowing cost efficient post-processing. Closing the interfaces along the production chain from post-processing back to construction, design and printing is key for the establishment of reliable additive manufacturing, from prototyping to large quantity serial production. For these reasons, Oerlikon AM is an important partner.”
Oerlikon AM and Hirtenberger Engineered Surfaces are planning to bring the post-processing technology to market in North America next year.