The Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn has joined forces with the Asturian company Triditive, a global benchmark company in additive manufacturing, to develop a 3D printer leveraging binder jetting technology. For several years, Triditive has been developing and commercializing bound metal extrusion systems tailored for parts production, under the brand AMCELL. Triditive and Foxconn will now work together on further scaling the AM platform’s automated manufacturing capabilities, marking a very important milestone and significant achievement for the Asturian startup led by CEO Mariel Diaz.
Binder jetting technology is a powder bed, sinter-based additive manufacturing process. The process consists in the selective deposition of binder, through to an ‘inkjet’ head on a bed of metal (or ceramic powders). Triditive’s experience with bound metal extrusion, also a sinter-based process, will help Foxconn compete in a segment that already sees giants such as HP, GE and Desktop Metal involved in a race to market.
What differentiates this methodology from others on the market is the scalability of production and the reduction of costs in the manufacture of metal parts, making it more attractive for scaling AM adoption. However metal binder jetting development for high throughput parts production has been slowed down by many challenges, relating primarily to the sintering process.
For the development of the ‘binders’, Triditive will be collaborating with Tecnalia, a research and technological development center located in the Basque Country of Spain. Metallic powders are selected and optmized in partnership with the German technology center Fraunhofer.
Binder jetting technology is meant to introduce a faster way to create metal parts in an additive process compared to existing technologies. To do this, the inkjet print heads offer a high level of precision; being able to reproduce even very small details.
It should be noted that the process does not require the use of support structures and the excess powder can be reused. On the other hand, the level of surface finish and the mechanical properties of the resulting parts make them ideal for end-use applications.
These conditions allow production to be scaled up and optimized, in addition to reducing costs, at a time when stock and material problems pose a global industrial challenge.
Foxconn is one of the largest companies in the technology sector. The company is known as a manufacturer of devices for giants such as Apple, Sony and Intel, among many others. Although it is known as a major adopter of AM technologies for tooling and prototyping, this is the first time that the manufacturing giant makes a direct reference to 3D printing and internally developed 3D printing equipment. The company is likley considering implementing some 3D printing in production as means to reduce high-labor intensive tasks and increasingly automate its production capabilities.
Regarding this new production system, Triditive has a patent in Spain for automated machinery, as well as leadership in additive manufacturing at an international level. Such characteristics that have made it an ideal partner for the largest manufacturer of electronic components worldwide.