Carbide tool manufacturer Horn produces precision tools for machining tasks with high standards. The family-run company leverages both AM and conventional manufacturing processes within its production environment.
To deal with their large volume of production orders, it was important for the company to scale both the manufacturing process and the downstream process steps to the greatest extent possible. At the post-processing level, the company has chosen a Solukon SFM-AT350 to automate the depowdering of laser-melted metal parts, increasing this way the efficiency of component cleaning.
Unveiled at Formnext two years ago, the Solukon SFM-AT350 enables endless rotation, while the horizontal axis can pivot up to 250 degrees. With increased freedom of motion and further flexibility in programmability, it can process metal 3D printed parts with a maximum total weight of 60 kg (incl. build platform) & a maximum height of 420 mm; and would be a great fit to process parts made with reactive materials such as aluminum or titanium.
The SFM-AT350 is in use several times a week at Horn. Currently, parts made from tool steel and stainless steel and those made from the reactive materials aluminum and titanium are depowdered in the Solukon system. Before cleaning the reactive materials, the SFM-AT350 is inerted with protective gas. Depending on the part size, up to several dozen parts are arranged on a build plate, which are then simultaneously freed from powder in a cleaning process in the SFM-AT350. This makes the cleaning process considerably more efficient and faster. According to Dr. Konrad Bartkowiak, production manager for additive manufacturing, when it comes to depowdering, parts with interior cooling channels, lattice structures or powder residue in the support structures are the greatest challenge, a press release reads.
With the SFM-AT350, the company from Tübingen cleans these complex parts automatically and has complete transparency in terms of the cleaning process. This is made possible by the Digital-Factory-Tool, a sensor and interface set used to monitor all the key data of the depowdering process (e.g., humidity, chamber pressure, temperature).
“The Solukon system increases safety (explosion protection) because we can also use it to depowder metal parts made of reactive materials in a protective gas atmosphere,” said Bartkowiak. Bartkowiak and his team also rely on the Solukon system for its contribution to sustainability. “We can sieve the discharged powder and then reuse it. Depending on the part size and cavities, this can add up to a significant amount of powder,” said Michael Schäfer, a designer and system operator in Additive Manufacturing at Horn.
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