FreeformThe new Freeform machine launched at Arburg's press event
In a press conference on the eve of K 2013, Arburg has revealed it will enter the additive manufacturing market for the first time with its brand new 'Freeforming' (AKF) machine, which will use standard plastic granules and print in multiple colours.
With the AKF process, 3D CAD files are processed by the Freeformer. Standard plastic granulate is melted and 'droplets' are generated from the liquid melt; thus, the final component is built up layer-by-layer.
Herbert Kraibuhler, Managing Director Technology & Engineering said that during the design of Arburg's first AM machine, it was important to enable the use of conventional plastic granulates rather than 'prefabricated' materials such as powders or strands, which may make the material, the processing and therefore also the parts more expensive.
Developed using the group's technical experience in injection moulding, the system uses a heated plasticising cylinder for an optimal plastic melt in the discharge unit. The patented nozzle closure with high-frequency "piezo" technology enables fast opening and closing movements to produce the plastic droplets under pressure. It can be configured as either a single or two-component machine, allowing combinations of different materials. Part of the group's marketing of the new device includes the repeated use of the word 'Freedom'. The group confirmed, for instance, that the system can handle colours without issue - often a drawback of certain AM systems.
In terms of distribution, the group aims to use existing channels and customers to bring the machine to the market. The first Freeformers will be supplied from next year, and will be running live during K this year.
On the topic of Arburg's more traditional offering, Mr Kraibuhler discussed continued growth in the demand for electrical injection moulding machines. The electric Allrounder 820 A, which is part of the electric Alldrive series, will make its world premiere in Düsseldorf this week, Kraibuhler stated. Both the 4,000 kN toggle-type clamping unit and the size 2100 electric injection unit have been developed for this machine. Arburg says that with these developments, the gap between 3,200 and 5,000 kN in the electric clamping unit range has been closed. The same applies to the hybrid Hidrive range, for which this new toggle size will also be available in future.
Lightweight construction will also feature prominently, with the group displaying new processing methods and demonstrating particle-foam composite injection moulding (PCIM). A plastic wheel rim will be injected onto a particle-foam tyre. Transfer of the pre-moulded part to the mould will be followed by overmoulding of the tyre with TPE. The six-axis robotic system will be used for handling work, from insertion of the foamed tyre through to transfer of the finished parts to the packaging system, which includes printing of the bags during the process.
One application on the stand will be production of 'flat drippers' for drip irrigation systems. The part has a complex structure and weighs 0.15g. With a cycle time of 1.91 seconds, Kraibuhler said that he believes it could be "among the fastest on show at K."
In automation, Arburg will team up with fpt Robotik to display an Agilus six axis robotic system from Kuka with integrated Selogica user interface. The system is suspended from a linear axis arranged transversely to the machine. The combination of a six-axis robotic system with a linear axis is said to permit more dynamic movements and faster entry into the mould. The small robotic system can move on its axis and the floorspace below can be used without restriction. It is designed for load weights between 6 and 10 kg.
Arburg is also demonstrating long-fibre direct injection moulding. Kraibuhler stated that the because the base materials in this process are cheaper, savings of 45% can be achieved. Thr group will produce organic sheets in a cycle time of around 40 seconds.
Looking to the future and "Industry 4.0", Kraibuhler said that a production cell using inline printing will demonstrate how production-based data can be linked to the component. In a one-piece flow process, name plates will be produced carring individually printed QR codes that link to a special web page. On the page, a list of all the relevant production parameters can be accessed, pertaining to the manufacture of each individual name plates.
In corporate news, Michael Hehl, Managing Partner at Arburg announced growth internationally, and increasing sales of its Allrounder range of IMMs. Citing the growth in machine demand and sales, Hehl revealed that Arburg will begin to extend its Lossburg HQ in 2014. The new extension will have a 18,600 m2 working area, and will significantly increase production and assembly capacity. Construction begins in Spring 2014, and the extension is expected to open for business in Autumn 2015.
International growth was also announced by Mr Hehl: in Shanghai, in the form of a new warehouse; in Mexico, in the form of new, larger premises; and in Poland, where the group will break ground on an all-new building at the end of 2014. Reporting a 4% increse in consolidated turnover in 2012, Hehl stated that the group is also "highly satisfied" with performance in 2013 so far.