What is Additive Manufacturing?
At its core, additive manufacturing is a production technique that crafts objects by adding material layer by layer. This method contrasts with traditional manufacturing, where objects often emerge by removing material from a solid block. The ability to construct intricate and complex designs has made additive manufacturing (AM) a transformative force in the manufacturing landscape. From its initial applications in rapid prototyping, it has evolved to produce end-use products across a myriad of high-value industries.
Additive manufacturing began its journey as a tool for rapid prototyping in the 1980s, enabling designers to swiftly create scale models without traditional setup processes. As the technology matured, its applications broadened, encompassing rapid tooling and eventually producing functional products. Today, industry leaders like Boeing, SpaceX, General Electric and many other companies have seamlessly integrated additive manufacturing into their core operations.
The Additive Manufacturing Processes
The process commences with a digital design, either crafted using computer-aided design (CAD) software or by scanning an existing object. This design is then segmented into ultra-thin layers, directing the 3D printer in its construction. Various methods achieve this:
- Powder Bed Fusion (PBF): Involves spreading metal powder layer by layer, using a laser or electron beam to meld and fuse the powder, forming the object.
- Binder Jetting: A liquid binding agent is selectively deposited onto a thin layer of powder particles, constructing the object layer by layer.
- Material Extrusion: Spooled polymers are extruded through a heated nozzle, building the object layer by layer.
Each method has its advantages and is suited for specific applications, materials, and industries.
Recycling in Additive Manufacturing
The efficient recycling of used powders in the AM industry is a critical concern, especially given the high costs associated with virgin powders. As additive manufacturing grows in popularity, the need for sustainable and cost-effective recycling solutions becomes paramount. The Hi-Sifter AM Powder Recycling System by Elcan Industries addresses this challenge head-on. This innovative system is designed to sieve at 44 microns and even finer, ensuring the removal of oversize or partially sintered particles that form during the printing process. These particles, if not removed, can affect the layering inside the 3D printer, compromising the quality of the final product. Traditional, other sieving machines struggle to maintain high rates and efficiencies at these sizes, leading to the use of 53, 63, and even 74-micron cuts to achieve separations. We categorize this method of sieving as “cheating the hole.” Elcan’s approach ensures that if a powder specification is 44 microns, it is sieved at that exact size, maintaining the integrity of the recycled material. This meticulous process not only ensures quality but also significantly reduces waste, promoting a more sustainable approach to additive manufacturing.
Elcan’s New Particle Testing Laboratory
Elcan Industries’ commitment to advancing the field of additive manufacturing is evident in its recent initiative – the opening of a new lab and particle testing laboratory. This state-of-the-art facility is equipped with cutting-edge lab equipment designed for fine particle size analysis and R&D evaluations. One of the standout features of this lab is a dedicated station for recycling additive manufacturing powders using the Hi-Sifter industrial sieving machine. This station is a testament to Elcan’s dedication to promoting sustainability in the AM industry. Furthermore, the lab aims to assist companies grappling with the challenges of recycling these powders, offering solutions that ensure both efficiency and quality. By providing a space where innovation and research can thrive, Elcan Industries positions itself at the forefront of sustainable advancements in additive manufacturing.
The aerospace sector stands as a testament to the transformative power of additive manufacturing. The technology’s ability to produce weight-saving, complex geometric designs has been pivotal.
Additive manufacturing signifies a paradigm shift in design and production approaches. By leveraging digital processes and innovative recycling methods, it offers a flexible, efficient, and sustainable avenue for creating and customizing products, heralding a new era in manufacturing.
For more information on our advanced recycle box systems contact us today!