Direct metal and polymer part 3D printing may still require several years to establish itself as a true production technology. PBF systems – especially the metal ones – still have to overcome several challenges limiting their productivity while production-ready binder jetting technologies still need to hit the market entirely. On the other hand, there are almost no real reasons why sand binder jetting technologies for mold-making and tooling are not yet widely adopted (other than a general and still widespread lack of awareness). This may finally be changing as one of the leading manufacturers of said technology, voxeljet, closed a major deal with a German automaker to bring up to 20-30 VJET X systems in-house over the next ten year period, starting with two in 2019 and three more shortly thereafter.
By harnessing the scalability of its powder binder jetting process, voxeljet and its partners are working to bring additive manufacturing to the next level through the large-scale production of complex sand molds and cores. The company’s solution for automated core printing is described as “the world’s most potent and integrated additive manufacturing solution.” Voxeljet’s stocks gained more than 5% after the announcement.
The project could potentially call for voxeljet, as subcontractor to the general contractor of the project, to deliver multiple units in the low double-digit range over a five-year period. This project will utilize sand cores for the casting of a critical engine component. This will be the first commercialization of voxeljet’s new line of high-speed printers, called VJET X, for the mass-production of complex sand cores. Using its nearly 20 years of research and expertise in precision mechanics, microfluidics and materials science, voxeljet has developed an advanced and more powerful printhead and recoating unit. This next generation print engine significantly reduces the layer time, making VJET X more than ten times faster than previous models.
“Today I can say that, together with our partners, we believe that we are set to become the world’s first company to deliver a 3D printing solution for automotive serial-production.”Dr. Ingo Ederer, Chief Executive Officer, voxeljet. “
VJET X is expected to increase flexibility in production and allows the high-speed manufacturing of more complex geometries compared to conventional methods. Possible benefits are improved performance and increased efficiency. “We started nearly 20 years ago as a spin-off from Technical University Munich with a clear vision in mind: to replace conventional manufacturing by constantly pushing technological boundaries”, commented Dr. Ingo Ederer, Chief Executive Officer of voxeljet. “Today I can say that, together with our partners, we believe that we are set to become the world’s first company to deliver a 3D printing solution for automotive serial-production. The 3D printing industry is at an inflection point and this achievement marks a key milestone in our mission. We have been working towards realizing this vision since our initial days in 1999, so this is especially exciting for us.”
voxeljet and its partners have taken a major step to reinvent the manufacturing landscape by developing the world’s first 3D production solution capable of replacing conventional manufacturing in mass-production. The new technology allows the production of highly complex sand cores at high speed. These sand cores can be used for the casting of critical engine components. When at full speed, the solution is expected to produce one unit per minute.
Leveraging voxeljet’s decades of research and expertise in precision mechanics, microfluidics and materials science, the automated core printing technology will rely upon voxeljet’s next generation VJET X 3D printers, which are more than ten times faster than previous models. The advanced VJET X 3D printers process a new set of inorganic binding materials, which ensure the highest environmental compatibility during the casting process. The new technology is projected to increase flexibility in production, improve performance and overall efficiency.