Shapeways has recently invested in additive manufacturing post-processing equipment from AM Solutions. When considering post-processing automation, the company chose systems that would help save time, improve efficiencies, and offer quality solutions to their growing customer base.
“Our enterprise customers require consistency and high quality, and so when we were looking for a post-processing supplier, we wanted well-engineered post-processing machines, supporting superior finishing processes. Equally important was after-sales support. We need a true partner relationship that ensures the machine and process are precisely aligned with our applications and any teething problems can be addressed and overcome in a timely fashion,” said Andy Nied, Chief Operating Officer at Shapeways.
“On a daily basis, Shapeways can process anything up to 2000 parts on an array of SLS and MJF powder-bed printers, some one-off parts, some in batches, and consisting of various geometries and perhaps requiring upwards of 20 different surface finishes. This means that an automated rather than a manual post-processing operation is vital, which is why we worked with AM Solutions to customize a machine to meet our needs,” said Jules Witte, Plant Manager at Shapeways, Eindhoven.
Shapeways invested in AM Solutions’ S1 and S2 post-processing machines. The S1 is a smart solution for cleaning and surface finishing in a single process step, and is equipped with a blast media conditioning system for optimal and consistent quality of the blasting media. Moreover, it features a newly-developed air management system which means even fewer deposits in the interior. The S1 comes with a basket designed for optimal distribution and tumbling of the parts, and the constant rotation of the workpieces during the cleaning process ensures repeatable and consistent shot-blasting results. The machine is also compact and robust – resulting in easy integrating into any production environment, and offering maximum reproducibility, traceability, and cost efficiency.
The S2 is a fully automatic post-processing solution for plastic parts produced using the powder bed process. Designed for 24/7 operation, the solution allows the output of several printers to be reworked – as it is able to process parts with a typical 20-30 minute cycle time. Thanks to its unique part handling, the system is also suitable for very delicate parts and significantly reduces scrap – eliminating the cost of reprinting. A special loop belt enables individual part flow and particularly gentle workpiece handling – ensuring uniform cleaning and homogenization of the workpiece surface in continuous operation. The integrated abrasive recycling system guarantees consistently good processing results.
Using AM Solutions’ technologies, Shapeways is able to reduce its cleaning and finishing from a two-step to a one-step process. Typically, in most post-processing solutions, glass beads are used for depowdering, and then poly beads for finishing. However, AM Solutions S1 and S2 only use poly beads – meaning depowdering and finishing in one process step. This removes the necessity to use two machines or two different types of media, if using one machine. The ability to eliminate glass bead blasting from the post-processing operation saves both time and money, and is another step towards automated process flow.