Solukon will present its automatic depowdering software to the public at Formnext 2022. By commercializing the software as its own product, the Augsburg company reinforces its role as a pioneer in the industrialization of automatic depowdering. Furthermore, with the SPR-Pathfinder, Solukon makes the digital twin of a part usable in post-processing for the first time.
The increasingly complex applications of powder-based 3D printing have led to increasing demands on industrial depowdering. After introducing its Digital-Factory-Tool last year, a sensor and interface kit for quality assurance and automation integration, Solukon is now launching the SPR-Pathfinder depowdering software.
To remove excess powder from complex internal structures, SPR-Pathfinder uses the build job’s CAD file to calculate the ideal motion sequence in the Solukon system. The SPR-Pathfinder calculations are based on a flow simulation that analyzes the part’s digital twin. The individually-calculated motion sequence is then read by the Solukon system, which in turn runs the programmed paths. This ensures that even the most complex parts are cleaned – in record time and without any human programming effort.
“In contrast to conventional manufacturing processes, 3D printing uses the part’s digital twin. To date, however, this was only utilized during the printing itself. With SPR-Pathfinder, the part’s digital twin can now also be used during depowdering. This is how we ensure that the potential of the digital twin can be used to the fullest in post-processing as well,” said Andreas Hartmann, CEO, and CTO of Solukon.
In 2018, the software developed by Siemens Technology in a joint project with Solukon was unveiled publicly for the first time under the name SiDAM. Solukon and Siemens received the TCT Post-processing Award 2019 for their use of the software in a Solukon SFM-AT800-S.
“Vibration-excited powder behaves almost like a fluid when it flows out. That’s how we quickly realized that we could find success by using path identification as well as particle and flow simulation in the software,” said Dr. Christoph Kiener, Principal Key Expert on Functional Design for Manufacturing at Siemens Technology.
Until recently, the software prototype was only available to a select number of Siemens’ and Solukon’s development partners. Now, Solukon has acquired exclusive rights to the software, developed it into a Solukon product, and is bringing it to the AM market under the new name – SPR-Pathfinder – enabling Solukon customers to purchase licenses for the first time.
“It’s a logical step for us to license the depowdering software exclusively to Solukon, thereby enabling the pioneer in industrial depowdering to offer the market an even more effective product,” said Dr. Georg Bodammer, Senior Venture Director at Siemens Technology Accelerator. “This way, customers can get everything from a single source: the market-leading depowdering system and the exclusive, intelligent software.”
In naming the software, Solukon deliberately drew on the established depowdering technology Smart Powder Recuperation, also known as SPR. SPR generally involves automated rotation on two axes as well as adjustable vibration in a safety-controlled atmosphere. The algorithm-based SPR-Pathfinder calculates the ideal motion sequence for the most complex geometries, finding the best path to allow the powder to flow out completely.
As an exclusive Solukon product, SPR-Pathfinder is only compatible with Solukon depowdering systems. The software can currently run on SFM-AT800-S and SFM-AT1000-S models – already starting with serial number 1 of those models. “It is very important to us that the widest possible customer base can benefit from our software from the moment it hits the market,” said Andreas Hartmann. In the future, the software should also be compatible with other models, such as the SFM-AT350.
SPR-Pathfinder runs as on-premises software – in other words, on the respective company’s own devices (PC or notebook), not in the cloud. Each license is bound to a device and is always valid for the current version at the time of purchase.
Prior to market launch, Solukon had the software thoroughly tested by several notable pilot customers, including Siemens Energy in Berlin, who has been using the SiDAM, or Pathfinder software, as part of a joint development project.
The Siemens AM team in Berlin manufactures hot gas parts in series via 3D printing processes and has been using a Solukon SFM-AT800-S for their depowdering needs for the past two and a half years. “With SPR-Pathfinder, we can depowder in series without any manual programming. The parts are guaranteed to be clean and this guarantee, in turn, allows us complete freedom in part design. Furthermore, we save a lot of time, which we can then dedicate to other value-adding activities in the manufacturing process,” said Julius Schurb, Project Leader for IDEA (Industrialization of Digital Engineering and Additive Manufacturing) at Siemens Energy.
Solukon will publicly present the software for the first time at Formnext 2022. Using a transparent heat exchanger, the machine manufacturer will demonstrate how SPR-Pathfinder software depowders even the most complex geometries in an SFM-AT800-S.
“Formnext 2022 will be a real highlight. We look forward to introducing SPR-Pathfinder to our customers there. The commercialization of the first depowdering software in the world is a milestone for Solukon as well as for the entire AM sector. This is because the software enables true serial cleaning of any geometry without any human programming,” said Andreas Hartmann.
Interested Solukon customers have the option to test SPR-Pathfinder, free of charge and without obligation. Interested parties can register for a 30-day trial version on Solukon’s website.