This year’s RAPID + TCT was jam packed with new 3D printing technology and was by far the largest 3D printing expo that I’ve personally seen. There was an awful lot to take in. So where to begin? If only there was a rundown highlighting some of the most significant new technologies that attendees were to witness in the exhibit hall. Well, on the first day of RAPID, Todd Grimm packed his rapid-fire What’s New talk with loads of 3D printing news, highlighting fantastic new technologies to see on the show floor. And unlike some snooze-fests (I’m not the biggest fan of lengthy lectures), Grimm’s talk was energetic, and his frenetic energy was infectious. It revitalized the audience.
Todd Grimm has been working in the additive manufacturing field for 25 years, is the president of T. A. Grimm & Associates and was named as one of TCT Magazine’s 20 most influential in the additive manufacturing community. As the author of User’s Guide to Rapid Prototyping, he’s literally written the book on 3D printing, so when he talks about what’s new in the industry, you’d be wise to listen closely. And boy, there were loads of new products, materials and processes to keep track of, as Grimm explained:
“A lot of the pieces are falling into place on what’s going to build our future and allow us to do more and more applications, be more powerful, more efficient, and I’m really pleased to be up before you to help paint the picture of what this puzzle is looking like and what pieces are now dropping into place. But be forewarned, this is a fast-paced presentation,” said Grimm. “I’ve done (this) several years, I usually use a metaphor: it’s like drinking from a firehose, there’s information flying at you from the stage. Last year, I used the metaphors of let’s get rid of the regulator of the hose, you’re drinking right from the fire hydrant. THIS YEAR, you’re going to be trying to drink from a wall of water, FLOOD WATERS raging towards you!”
Grimm went on to explain that much of the new innovations seen at RAPID weren’t even possible just 12 months ago. In fact, there were so many developments in additive manufacturing in the last 12 months that it would be too much to cover during his presentation. His goal was to provide an overview of a plethora of new developments, that the audience could delve further into on their own, with some caveats, as he explained:
“(This is a) carefully selected, tip of the iceberg, not everything that is out there,” warned Grimm. “Now keep in mind these aren’t all products that you can purchase today; some is early research, some is late stage research, some is alpha, some is beta, some in launch. All different phases, but everything related to the mechanical engineer, design engineer, manufacturing personality. No construction, no dentistry, no bio in here, that’s the list I came up with, that’s the list that I had to choose from.”
He started by laying news in additive manufacturing from August 2016 through January 1, 2017, and continued listing developments through May 2017. Grimm utilized the ASTM classification system, to break down the updates by manufacturing technology; Binder jetting (consisting of a bed of powered material with a binder material jetted onto it like an ink jet printer), directed energy deposition (a process using a focused energy source with material deposited into that focal point of energy), material extrusion (extruding material in a continuous bead or thread), material jetting (jetting material as opposed to jetting a binder agent), power bed fusion (a bed of powder with the material melted or sintered by a laser or other energy source), sheet lamination (sheets of material bonded together), vat photopolymerization (uses photopolymers and light to cure it), and hybrid (uses one or more of the other ASTM processes or other manufacturing technology in the same machine).
Under the category of auxiliary, which Grimm also referred to as the mundane, he highlighted Freeman Tech for their FT4 Powder Rheometer for testing the flowability (otherwise known as rheology) and process-ability of powder. He classified it as “early-stage for R&D material development or process optimization.” Elcan has developed a Hi-sifter, which uses high energy to screen metal powders for contaminants, sieving down to 10 microns or less to help with particle distribution for metal 3D printing, to get high-quality prints. Ruwac USA’s NS35 is a dust collection system with an emergency separator and built-in vacuum to safely collect conductive metals, explosive or impact-sensitive materials or glowing media. PostProcess Technologies specializes in post processing of additive manufactured parts. Their SF DECI Rectangular is their largest machine for surface finishing and was on display at RAPID. Grimm was also excited to announce that Formlabs would be introducing their new Form Wash + Form Cure.
Manufacturers in need of fine screening of metal and other powders have long looked to Elcan Industries for its technology and expertise. “We can find solutions for problems that are seemingly impossible,” says Bob Grotto, president and owner of the Tuckahoe, N.Y, company. “We can help companies find a screening or grinding solution that can help them make a product in a much better way, whether it’s a turbine blade for a jet engine or a 3-D printed body part.”
The company specializes in selling screening, grinding, and classifying machine from European and Japanese manufactures into the American market. Machines offered by the company are used in a variety of industries including chemical, fertilizer, building aggregate, food, plastics and pharmaceutical manufacturing. “We don’t have commodity technology,” he adds. “We bring high-end technology from overseas to America.”
Elcan’s specialty technology attracted Grotto to the company in 1993, when he began researching it prior to his purchase. The company at the time was using a tumbler machine manufactured in Germany that had features unseen in the United States. “American companies were all offering the same basic technology,” Grotto says. “We want to be at the forefront with companies who are advancing technology.”
Although the marker of the tumbler machine would eventually take the technology elsewhere, the company quickly rebounded by finding a similar machine. That product line, from the German manufacturer Minox, quickly caught on, doubling Elcan’s sales and leading to multiple installations. Elcan later supplemented the tumbler line with a screening machine developed by a company in Israel and manufactured in Italy. Elcan offered those machines through 2013. Today, the company offers the Minox line of tumbler screeners as well as a line of grinding machines from manufacturer STM Micron. The grinding line includes fluidized jet mill, cryogenic pin milling, since milling and air classification machines.
Elcan also carries RHEWUM type WA high-performance vibration screening machines used to classify bulk material in the finest to medium-grain size range.
The company recently added the Hi-sifter, a Japanese machines that can screen titanium powder to as fine as 10 microns, to its offerings. The company will display the machine in May dire the RAPID conference and expo in Pittsburgh.
The Hi-Sifter’s body and product contact areas are all stainless steel, making it ideal for the processing of powder used to produce parts for the aerospace and other industries. “The Hi-Sifter is the only machine in the world that can screen metal powders this fine and not have any come into contact with any contaminants,” Grotto says.
Elcan Industries in the year 2000 expanded its offering in response to customer requests. “We had many customer buying these machines, but they were taking three to four months to be made, so we started processing materials in our lab for them,” Grotto says. The company uses the same high-quality machines it offers to clients to perform this work. These machines are less prone to being clogged than conventional machines.
This quickly led to the company offering toll processing services for materials including aluminum, graphite and glass powders; plastics; and cosmetics. “Our best customers are those who have a large return on investment from our abilities,” he adds.
Elcan’s screening work includes processing 5 million pounds of aluminum powder for a major metal powder manufacturer, as well as screening glass flakes used in electronics manufacturing. The company’s Tuckahoe facility includes ten bays dedicated to toll processing. Toll Processing services offered by the company include screening, grinding and classifying, mixing and blending, packaging and repackaging, and magnetic separation.
“This facility gives us the ability to take on products that are causing customers problems,” Grotto says. “We have enough technique and expertise working with our suppliers’ machines to know how to get them to go things above and beyond even what the manufacturer thought it could do.”
“People come to us when they can’t do something with conventional equipment,” he adds. “We can solve their problems and give them a permanent solution they can use in their factory and profit from.” Mt
Elcan Industries, based in Tuckahoe, New York, USA, has reported that its new Hi-Sifter screening machines, originally developed for the pharmaceutical and food industries, are proving to be well suited to the metal Additive Manufacturing industry.
Elcan has stated that numerous companies have successfully tested products at Elcan’s facility and have begun purchasing the screeners. Several positive trials on titanium powders and other metal alloys that are used in the Additive Manufacturing process have proven capable of removing 15 micron and below particles, enabling better printing performance.
The entire body and all product contact areas of the machine are polished stainless steel and allow for zero contamination. The high volume of energy being transferred to the screen allows for hard to screen metal alloys to flow seamlessly through the screen. The machine has a strong vertical vibration that allows for high rates of efficiencies and throughputs without any blinding.
Elcan claims that the removal of any potential for contamination within the machine, its explosion proof design and high energy make the machine the precise fit for companies looking to add screening machinery to their Additive Manufacturing plants.