Here at Gradam, we’re great believers that the future of Additive is in manufacturing throughout the entire life-cycle, including production. As part of that, we’re constantly evaluating the ever evolving field looking for the next production capable partner to add. We currently see two solutions that will fit the bill, one short term and one a bit further out.
HP MultiJet Fusion: HP’s core additive manufacturing process leverages their longstanding expertise with InkJet technology. The system utilizes a bed of the target material (normally PA12 Nylon) that is uniformly laid out with a precision roller and kept very near the melting temperature of the material. The print head then runs over the part and deposits a layer of binding resin which is subsequently activated by a powerful UV light.
The main benefits of this technology are a large print volume (380 x 284 x 380) and a very fast build speed (4115cm^3). Add to that excellent material properties and you have a machine capable of producing end use engineering grade components. The downside to this process is the narrow range of base materials to choose from.
Next Generation Investments:
Metal Binding: The old guard of metal manufacturing is DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering). This technology is quite well understood and characterized, however, it’s both slow and produces parts with residual stresses that need to be dealt with.
The newest generation of metal additive machines are based on systems much like HP’s MultiJet Fusion in which a bed of powder is laid down and a binder is jetted on and cured – the difference is in post processing. Once the part is pulled from the printer it needs to be processed into a brown part by chemically removing most of the binders. After that, the part (and supports) are sintered in a furnace to their final fully metal composition.
The benefits of this process are extremely fast build speed, low residual stresses, great surface finish, and prices much, much lower than before. We hope to make the investment into these systems once they build a bit more maturity. Current systems of note are HP’s Metal Jet and Desktop Metal’s Production System, although GE and Stratasys are also planning to enter the market. We expect these to be viable in 2020 or 2021 and are very much looking forward to it. We also plan to offer CNC subtractive services to fulfill fully net sized (and finished) parts.