Additive Manufacturing: 3D Printer Runs Eight Times Faster Than Others

High-speed extruder-based system processes free-flowing, cost-effective standard plastic granulate.

Screw Extrusion Additive Manufacturing (SEAM) technology from the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU is a high-speed system that is said to take only 18 min. to produce a plastic component that is 30-cm high. The extruder is installed above a construction platform that can be swiveled in six axes by using a motion system akin to that of a machine tool. Plastic is deposited in layers on the construction platform.

The motion system ensures that the construction panel slides along under the nozzle in such a way that the previously programmed component shape is produced. The table can be moved at a speed of one meter/sec in the X-, Y- and Z-axes, and can also be tilted by up to 45°. This reportedly enables SEAM to print eight times faster than conventional processes, enormously reducing the production times for plastic components.

Every hour, up to 7 kg of plastic are pressed through the hot nozzle with a diameter of one mm. Comparable 3D printing processes, such as Fused Deposition Modeling or Fused Filament Modeling, usually run at a rate of 50 g of plastic per hour. Instead of expensive FLM filament, SEAM processes free-flowing, cost-effective standard plastic granulate into resilient, fiber-reinforced components that are several meters in size. This method reportedly allows material costs to be reduced by a factor of 200.

SEAM allows researchers to implement complex geometries without supporting structures. The new system even makes it possible to print on existing injection-molded components, even curved structures. In tests, Fraunhofer IWU ran materials ranging from TPEs to 50% carbon filled high-performance plastics. Fraunhofer IWU says these materials cannot be processed on traditional 3D printers.

The SEAM process was developed at the Chemnitz Institute.