Introducing the first integrated unpacking and depowdering system

The collaboration between Solukon and Reichenbacher Hamuel streamlines LPBF post-processing into a single, automated process

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The process of additive manufacturing involves a critical step of removing unfused powder from metal parts. Solukon’s systems have automated this task for parts produced via Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) processes for many years. Recently, a project with Reichenbacher Hamuel GmbH has leaped forward by unifying the unpacking and depowdering process in a single system.

In the words of Solukon, once the LPBF process is completed, the manufactured part resides within a “powder cake” of unutilized metal powder inside a container. The process of unpacking the part, which involves separating it from the powder cake, usually necessitates vacuuming and clearing away the powder. Once the part is freed and extracted from the container, it is placed in a Solukon system. This system automatically eliminates any unfused metal powder from the intricate interior of the part using a programmable two-axis rotation and vibration, making the powder fluid and enabling it to flow out in a controlled manner. This is the traditional method for removing powder from intricately laser-melted metal parts. For the first time, the Reichenbacher – Solukon project integrates these two process steps into a single automated system.

Solukon and Reichenbacher Hamuel introduce an integrated unpacking and depowdering system for LPBF post-processing.

An essential aspect of the Reichenbacher – Solukon project is that the entire container housing the part, and not just the part itself, is loaded into the SFM-AT1000-S. The Reichenbacher container has removable sides and a bottom, and is held in place by a zero-point clamping system. The container is then flipped, and the loose powder is automatically emptied from the powder cake. This evacuated powder is directly transported to an external station for material preparation.

Subsequently, the user employs an external mobile lifting device or crane to remove the box frame, making the part entirely accessible. As usual, the Solukon system then employs its unique SPR technology with programmable two-axis rotation and adjustable vibration to clean the part. The SPR-Pathfinder software makes it easy to calculate in advance the motion sequence in the Solukon system, using the part’s CAD file. The SFM-AT1000-S is designed to accommodate boxes weighing up to 800 kg, and it can even dislodge stubborn powder clumps in the part’s interior channels with the aid of a high-frequency knocker.

Solukon and Reichenbacher Hamuel introduce an integrated unpacking and depowdering system for LPBF post-processing.

“The SFM-AT1000-S with box unpacking is a project with a high degree of automation. Furthermore, it demonstrates how flexibly our systems can be used for individual customer solutions. We are happy to support Reichenbacher in their project unpacking boxes of laser-melted metal parts. This is how, together, we create a real competitive edge for Reichenbacher’s customers,” expressed Andreas Hartmann, CEO and CTO of Solukon.

Dr. Alexander Kawalla-Nam led Reichenbacher Hamuel’s Additive Manufacturing Team to develop this industry-ready automated solution. He stated, “With Solukon, we once again have a system in our portfolio that has a truly unique selling point and makes us stand out in the area of post-processing against standard solutions on the AM market. This puts Reichenbacher in a position to map the entire 3D printing process chain. We thank Mr. Hartman and team for their openness and fast execution of the project.”

Proving its efficacy, the SFM-AT1000-S has already passed its box unpacking and depowdering field test. A leading steel mold manufacturer for the concrete industry has been employing the system for several months.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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