Since its founding in 1987, Austrian company APS GmbH has built a solid bedrock of knowledge in the areas of robotics, automation and composite materials. In recent years, the company has channeled this expertise towards the development of a versatile composite 3D printing platform, the Wizard 480+, which (after several years of development) was launched in early 2020.
The system is unique within the landscape of composite 3D printers, offering a hybrid model for fused filament fabrication (FFF) and continuous filament fabrication (CFF) that is compatible with many (and we mean many) types of material. This versatility is owed to the Wizard 480+’s dynamic tool change system, which enables up to four different print heads to function at once. These print heads are also designed for easy changing: they can reportedly be swapped out in under three seconds using the printer’s automated system.
The patent-pending print head configuration gives users the ability to print parts with up to four materials, including conventional FFF plastics (like ABS and PLA), high-performance plastics (like PEEK and PEKK), continuous fiber materials (like carbon and glass fibers), as well as metals and ceramics (like chrome steel and titanium). In the case of the latter, green parts are printed from a feedstock made up of metal powder (80-90%) and binder (10-20%). Parts are then washed to remove the binder and then sintered, resulting in dense metal or ceramic components.
What interests us most about the Wizard 480+, however, is its composite additive manufacturing capability. Users have the option of exploiting either FFF 3D printing, using a combination of plastic and chopped carbon fibers, or CFF with continuous carbon fiber. In the case of the former, the Wizard 480+ can achieve carbon fiber densities between 10 and 30% with omnidirectional fiber placement. With the CFF approach, the carbon fiber amount can reach up to 50% using unidirectional fiber placement. The CFF process also allows for a variety of continuous fiber types, including the aforementioned carbon fiber, as well as glass fiber, aramid and metal wires like copper.
With a build volume of up to 400 x 230 x 370 mm, the Wizard 480+ is an interesting option in the composite 3D printing area, particularly for functional prototypes, spare parts and small series production runs. Other notable specifications for the system include FFF temperatures of up to 500°C (critical for the use of high-performance plastics) and a water cooling system for the print heads, which helps to ensure safety and repeatability.
Proudly engineered and assembled in its home country of Austria, APS’ Wizard 480+ is an inventive piece of equipment that, as the company succinctly says, “combines several innovations into one complete system.”