At last year's Euromold there was one stand that had a lot of people's tongues a-wagging. There was no machine, there were no parts, just a big empty box and some interesting declarations from a new company coming out of the Netherlands.
At the time Additive Industries were in R&D stealth mode, talking about a metal additive manufacturing machine that would change the industry. At Rapid this week, that machine has a name and we got some more details from co-founder and CEO Daan A.J. Kersten.
For starters the new system is called MetalFab1 and its expected to launch in Q4 with the first machines out to beta customers in Q1 2016. The MetalFab1 is expected to be a complete industrial grade AM solution complete with automated build platform, material and post processing handling.
When asked about what advantages the MetalFab1 has over its rivals Kersten told TCT: "This will be the first industrial grade machine, it is an integrated machine that includes the printing and post-processing inside the machine, it has automated handling of build plates and materials so there’s no need to take out the powder or to remove the build plate of the product. This will allow us to run for 72 hours without operator intervention."
Those properties are as a direct result of consultation with current users of AM machinery and Daan believes that it is this approach that will see Additive Industries become a huge player in industrial-grade metal additive manufacturing.
"We are targeting the high-end of the market, aerospace, medical and automotive," explained the CEO. "When we started in 2012 the first thing we did is speak to some experienced users and asked them 'What would you like if you could spec a machine?' and this machine is the product of those discussions. "
The machine itself is a metal powder bed fusion technology and the team behind it have an impressive track record with material scientists, software developers and mechanical engineers coming out of Dutch institutions like TNO, Phillips and Delft University. That team have overseen a development of a machine that will not only be highly accurate but certifiably safe.
"With current processes there is human interaction with powder and that means the powder can get in the room we don’t like that, we don’t want to be in an asbestos situation in ten years, we really want to keep the powder in the machine at all times." Said Kersten. "The integration and automation of printing and post-processing is also beneficial for the likes of aerospace customers. Currently each step requires certification; you have to log that the part has come out of the machine and is going into another machine for processing, this takes up a lot of time. Our system is automated so they require less paperwork."
Removing manual labour has long been a goal of this industry and a fully automated system like this could well be the answer.