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Three 3-D printing specialists join in a new Eurostars project

Posted on 30 Jan 2024 and read 597 times
Three 3-D printing specialists join in a new Eurostars projectWhile a large part of the 3-D printing production process is managed online, finishing the printed components still requires some manual process steps. The Danish company Scape Technologies, the Danish Technological Institute (DTI), and the UK company Advanced Manufacturing Technologies (AMT) are to collaborate and try to automate these steps in a new Eurostars project (Eurostars is part of the European Partnership in Innovative SMEs and is co-funded by the European Union through Horizon Europe).

Currently, the industry uses post-processing methods that are labour intensive, dusty, energy-inefficient and environment-polluting. The latter is especially problematic as current smoothing methods produce micro-fibre-plastic polluted water as a by-product. These are mechanical-contact-based methods that remove material from the parts, resulting in loss of accuracy, fine features and degradation of part properties while leaving surfaces porous and non-sealed.

Over the past few years, DTI in Aarhus (Denmark) has established a complete setup for industrial 3-D printing production in metals and plastics — one that includes both the digital processes that precede the printing, the 3-D printing process itself, and the finishing steps that finalise the 3-D printed parts — processes that invariably involve manual handling.

DTI will try to automate these processes in a new EU-supported project called DMS Nextgen, which aims to develop a system that can take the entire 3-D printed build job immediately after the printing process and do all the finishing — cooling and unpacking, blasting the parts, and finally sealing the surface. For this system, the plan is to use ‘a conveyor bay and robots to move the parts between the various process steps’.

Scape Technologies, a Danish software automation company that specialises in robotic automated material handling, will provide visual recognition, gripping techniques, and robot path planning development to transport the 3-D printed objects between the modules of the de-powdering machine, the smoothing machine and the final stage of object inspection and sorting.

Sheffield-based AMT will make equipment for the post-processing of 3-D printed parts. At the end of the project, the entire system will be integrated, and the demo system housed at DTI.