Automation is the current issue tackled by 3D printing companies of the industry. Whether they are manufacturers of large format 3D printers like BigRep, or metal AM companies like Digital Metal, all of them are looking for solutions to bring automation into the manufacturing process.

As far as Digital Metal is concerned, the metal 3D printing specialist has launched a no-hand production concept for its binder-jetting technology.

Handled by a robot, the process will therefore remove all manual work in order to increase productivity. Technically speaking, the printer will be filled with build boxes; they will thereafter be moved for post-treatment in a CNC-operated de-powdering system to which a pick-and-place robot has been fixed.

There, “the remaining metal powder will be removed and recycled, and the parts placed on sintering plates. The main robot will then move the plates to the sintering furnace for combined debinding and sintering, either in batches or for continuous production.

Most AM technologies show a very low level of automation”, says Ralf Carlström, General Manager at Digital Metal. “Our aim is to change that. With the new no-hand production line, our customers can further improve their productivity and lower the production costs. Almost all manually intensive work can be eliminated and in addition the powders removed in the cleaning machine can be recirculated in the process, thus minimizing waste. As we see it, the Digital Metal technology is now applicable for serial production of high-volume components.”

Lastly, the company explained that automation is just the first step prior to full no-hand production. During de-powdering, the CNC-controlled movements are ensured by the information provided by the 3D printer.  Once removed powder is collected, it is recycled without any degradation of properties.

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