Next-generation FFF printers boost accuracy, reliability
Suppliers of fused-filament-fabrication (FFF) 3-D printers are expanding the capabilities of their products, with high-temperature models and new features that enhance performance and reliability.
CINCINNATI INTRODUCES HIGH-TEMPERATURE PRINTER
Cincinnati Inc. recently introduced a high-temperature version of its SAAM (Small Area Additive Manufacturing) 3-D printer.
The company displayed the printer for the first time last month at FabTech in Atlanta.
The SAAM HT has an all-metal enclosure and frame. The nozzle can sustain temperatures of up to 842 degrees Fahrenheit and the bed can withstand temperatures of up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Like the original SAAM, the SAAM HT has a build area of 7.9 inches by 7.4 inches by 9.4 inches.
The printer’s high-temperature operation means it is not limited to common 3-D printer plastics like polylactic acid (PLA), but can process high-performance polymers and composites, including Ultem, an amorphous polyetherimide used in the aerospace industry. It also can process PEEK, used in medical applications, and PC for applications requiring high-impact strength and heat resistance.
Cincinnati recommends the SAAM HT for manufacturing tools that need to go into an autoclave for sterilization. The system can be used for small-batch production ranging from tens to hundreds of parts per run, the company said.
Because the SAAM HT can use the same materials as the regular SAAM printer, as well as high-temperature plastics, it is extremely versatile, said Chris Haid, GM of Cincinnati’s NVBOTS business unit.
“We are enabling manufacturers and engineers to create the custom parts they need for their most demanding applications,” he said. “Our target customers for this product are manufacturers in various industries (automotive, aerospace, general equipment) where 3-D printing in performance materials like Ultem and carbon-fiber-reinforced materials may have either been too technically complex or too expensive in the past. We are making 3-D printing in these performance materials easy and affordable.”
The SAAM HT uses FFF technology to print parts directly from a CAD design. FFF uses a continuous filament of a thermoplastic material that is fed through a heated extruder head. The melted plastic is forced out of the print head’s nozzle and is deposited on the build plate. The head moves, depositing the plastic in layers to build a part.
The SAAM HT can print parts without an operator present. Once the parts are printed, they are ejected into a storage chamber, allowing the printer to begin producing the next part automatically.
3D PRINTERWORKS ADDS INDUSTRIAL MODEL
Earlier this year, 3D PrinterWorks launched its industrial HT-5800 3-D printing system, which joins its existing Pro Series II printer.
The HT-5800 is a high-temperature, FFF 3-D printer with a large 18-inch-by-18-inch-by-18-inch (or 5,832-cubic-inch) build volume. It is designed to produce precision parts using engineering-grade materials and is ideal for customers in aerospace, defense and other manufacturing segments, company CEO Ben Kilar said. It can produce larger parts than the Pro Series II, which already is used by customers that include NASA, the Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin.
“We listened to the feedback from our customers and used high-quality components to create a large-scale 3-D printer that makes adopting the technology less intimidating for new customers,” Kilar said.
The HT-5800 includes a high-temperature printing surface and an insulated build chamber that maintains a controlled environment to ensure consistency and professional quality.
“We fully insulated the whole thing, and the heated build plate in there has a huge aluminum heat spreader, so we are able to maintain temperatures of 80 degrees Celsius [176 degrees Fahrenheit] inside of the chamber,” Kilar said.
Dual extruders allow users to print complex geometries using breakaway support material.
An automated platform correction system calibrates the build plate before the start of every print, which ensures consistent quality and performance. Before every print job, the machine probes 25 points on the build plate to determine if there is any tilt. Based on that information, the system adjusts the plate height during the printing process based on where the print head is on the platform, according to the company.
For example, if during the probe process the machine determines the left rear corner is 0.5mm lower than the rest of the platform, it will automatically raise the platform 0.5mm anytime the print head is in the left rear corner. Since the system probes 25 points on the plate, it can dynamically compensate for any distortion across the whole surface, Kilar said.
Easy-change build plates allow the user to select the correct print surface for maximum part adhesion. Typically, one surface cannot be used for all the different types of plastic. Optimizing the grip of the deposited plastic to the surface greatly reduces any chance of a failed print, Kilar said. The company, for example, offers different plate surfaces for ABS, nylon and PP resins.
HT-5800 printers come with a 0.6mm-diameter nozzle, which allows for a faster manufacturing speed than the Pro Series II 3-D printer. A smaller-diameter nozzle allows for greater detail on smaller parts, but at the cost of manufacturing speed, Kilar said.
The HT-5800 can work with a variety of resins, but it is designed to excel with high-quality materials including PC, PP, nylon and ABS.
“Certain plastics require a more controlled environment, and that is where the HT-5800 really shines,” Kilar said.
PP is a notoriously difficult plastic to print, as compared to injection molding it, he said. When PP is printed, each layer can begin cooling and shrinking before the next layer is applied, which leads to cracking and warping. However, the HT-5800’s high-temperature printing surface and insulated chamber reduce those problems.
Fiber-filled nylon is another difficult material for many printers, but it works well on the HT-5800. 3D PrinterWorks is recommending two Owens Corning products — a 30-percent glass-
fiber-filled nylon 6 and a glass-filled PP blend — for use in the HT-5800.
“They work very well with this machine,” Kilar said. “The glass-filled nylon is going to be very, very strong versus other materials.”
3D PrinterWorks’ customers include injection molders. One of its customers uses the 3-D printers to make prototypes.
“One of our injection molding companies will actually print a prototype for their customers before making any of the tooling to make sure the dimensions are 100 percent accurate before they start cutting steel,” Kilar said.
Another customer began manufacturing plastic scoops to sell to beachgoers in Florida. He wanted to start by manufacturing about 300 units, while the molds were being built for his injection molding machines. The customer 3-D printed some of the scoops on his own and hired 3D PrinterWorks, which provides printing services in addition to selling printers, to produce the rest.
3-D printing, because of the costs and production times, is usually best for low-volume production.
Some of 3D PrinterWorks’ customers also use the printers to build their own tooling. He cited as an example an injection molder that uses 3-D printers to make jigs used in drilling parts after they are injection molded. The jigs hold parts in place, so a worker can drill several holes in precise locations. The jigs serve as templates and ensure accuracy and speed.
FUSION3 LAUNCHES F410 3-D PRINTER
Fusion3 rolled out its F410 FFF 3-D printer, which is a successor to the company’s F400 printer that launched in 2016.
The F410 expands on the features of the F400 with a greater emphasis on performance, reliability and ease of use, the company said. The printer, which sells for $4,599, is designed to compete with industrial printers costing $20,000 to $100,000.
“The F410 prints large, quality parts at fast speeds and incorporates new technologies for even greater performance, flexibility for different print scenarios and ease of use,” Fusion3 CEO Chris Padgett said.
One innovation is the interchangeable print heads. Selecting the appropriate print head is a matter of balancing the need for print speed and print quality.
“It all comes down to the customer’s or user’s balance of speed, productivity and the net quality of the small features,” said Chip Royce, VP of sales and marketing.
Large features, like the wall of a box, would essentially exhibit the same quality regardless of the size of the print head. However, differences could become noticeable when dealing with tight tolerances on small features, such as a small screw hole.
Included with the printer is a 0.4mm print head that has a hardened steel nozzle and offers fine print detail. Also available for separate purchase are a 0.6mm print head that reduces print times by 32 percent and a 0.8mm print head that reduces print times by 57 percent.
The printer has a new automatic bed-leveling system that ensures the correct height of the first layer for every print. A level print bed is key to quality prints, and the F410’s bed-level compensation technology checks and adjusts the bed height before every print.
The F410’s network interface gives customers remote access to control functions — including uploading files, monitoring print progress and starting, stopping and pausing — through a web browser and a built-in Ethernet connection.
The F410 prints parts as large as 14 inches by 14 inches by 12.4 inches in an enclosed area that provides a stable temperature of 113 degrees Fahrenheit, ensuring excellent print results when printing with high-temperature, engineering-grade materials, the company said.
The printer works with a variety of resins, including ABS, ASA, nylons, PET, PET-glycol, PLA and PC. It also can process carbon-fiber-filled and fiberglass-filled resins.
Bruce Geiselman, senior staff reporter
Harrison, Ohio, 513-367-7100,
Fusion3 Design LLC,
Greensboro, N.C., 877-452-0010,
3D PrinterWorks LLC,
Youngstown, Ohio, 330-269-9711,