Back from Formnext, my first step was to review which technologies/materials could make the PBF-LB process even more productive and whether would these approaches really an advantage. New materials, more laser, higher laser power, and finally exposure in parallel with recoating?
Today I want to give you a short overview about how to proceed to gain higher productivities. 🚀
It's really hard to keep track, and there's certainly not just one right approach for squeezing more productivity out of your machines. As always in 3D printing, it 𝘥𝘦𝘱𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘥𝘶𝘤𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘰𝘯 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘢𝘭. 🤔
Material should also be our direct entrance to the topic, but how can material help us with productivity of PBF-LB processes? Depending on the external shape of a powder particle, process speed can be further increased. Spherical particles help to increase the flowability of the powder and create a more homogeneous distribution of particles in a powder bed. As a result, it is possible to achieve higher deposition speeds and thus reduce the planned delay during depositing a powder layer. High z-height jobs can therefore be produced much more productively while maintaining the same quality. Particle size distribution (PSD) also effects productivity because it determines flowability of the powder as well. In general, larger PSD 👉 faster printing. However, part quality must be considered here. ✅
Next, let's have a look at machine availability. Frequently machine setup processes should be reduced in order to maximize machine capacity. Manufacturers of PBF-LB machines therefore offer so-called Build Boxes, which help to reduce setup times. The main operations (Depowdering, Cleaning) no longer takes place in a machine, but can be performed in a box. As a result, the machine is immediately available for production. The operator needs to keep a second build box available and can restart the process immediately after cleaning the build chamber. That procedure would be in line with the strategy "We only make money when the laser is burning". ✅
Finally, lets focus on process conditions, which I think is the biggest playground, and we have so far understood maybe 15% of the opportunities for higher productivity. Just based on software, we still have countless opportunities to squeeze every last cubic centimeter out of the process. Approaches demonstrated at Formnext have already shown that delays per layer can be significantly reduced. Recoating and exposing at the same time is still on people's minds. Another approach is the big spot technology. The laser spot is enlarged in an attempt to transfer more energy into a layer. This is comparable to milling with a "rough machining and finishing strategy", where you can gain more productivity out of your process. ✅
What do you think?