Thursday, 1 November 2012

Nonstop 24/7/365 3D Printing in the "Factory of the Future"

Anyone considering building a 3D Printing plant better think clearly about which 3D printers to buy. It is said that 3D printing eradicates the tooling costs of traditional manufacturing ... but a 3D printer is just another kind of tooling. Make the wrong decision, and you won't have a factory of the future, but a legacy unable to adjust to the market.

In a recent story announcing Shapeways' investment in New York City to establish a new plant, the need for job queue scheduling was discussed. OK, so new consumer requests for 'prints' can be easily routed to the right machine, and to a free machine. But what about all those pesky little tasks and dirty secrets such as:

  • Pre-processing
  • Material refills
  • Build preparation
  • Removing objects from the build chamber
  • Cleaning and finishing
  • Heat treatment
  • Inspection and validation
Humans will be in the loop for some time to come, more so perhaps than in traditional mass production processes. So a new development from VoxelJet is welcome. 

The German company has developed the world's first non-stop continuous 3D printer. The building and unpacking steps now run in parallel - without interrupting operations. This will increase the speed and profitability of small series production. 

The new printer is being displayed for the first time at Euromold 2012. The design is novel. In effect, there is no limited sized build chamber and theoretically no limit on the length of a printed part (although width and height are constrained by the size of the machine. In effect, parts move through the machine from front to back. Think of it as a 3D Printing conveyor belt. 

1 comment:

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