DAPR Engineering combined sound engineering principles, innovative design approach, and solution-based processes to develop a first-generation metal 3D inkjet printing machine. The fast-track project met an accelerated schedule to deliver an alpha machine for introduction at a key industry tradeshow.
Industry: Additive Manufacturing
Product: 3D Metal Inkjet Printer
Prototype, 9 months
Commercial Alpha, 10 months
White Sheet Design to Production
OEM Product Design
Full System Build and Integration
Assembly Fixture Design
ANSYS Finite Element Analysis (FEA)
Mechanical Vibration and Frequency Analysis
Inert Atmosphere Generation
Multi-axis Motion Control
Advanced materials and metals
Took process idea to first-generation commercial product
Achieved accelerated commercialization process to provide alpha machine for a trade show in 10 months
Developed ultra-precise and highly repeatable process for the deposition of metal powder with micron-level precision
CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS
Stringent Design Requirements
A customer-defined machine footprint drove innovative packaging and motion control to achieve all design requirements. Appropriate materials were selected, and solutions applied that could meet the needs for high speed, resolution, and accuracy. Honeycomb panel technology was utilized to help minimize weight while maintaining high rigidity. Development of a moving shield/partition to isolate and protect sensitive equipment from process powders. Analysis tools were used to optimize and confirm stiffness of the chassis and other major structural components.
Speed to Market.
We expedited a proof of concept prototype machine in a 4-month window which allowed process development by the customer and subsequently led to the joint effort of an Alpha machine. The commercialization of the Alpha machine was again achieved within an accelerated timeframe of 10 months. For the first three months, we collaborated with the customer during proof of concept and process development. For example, we developed a test rig for the process study to understand the best practices for powder flow and delivery. With lessons learned, we revamped, optimized, and validated all aspects of the system and mechanical design with an eye toward manufacturability and production. Also, the new form factor required a more stringent design.
Micron-level Precision & Accuracy Requirements
The metal binder jetting process requires a heavy carriage to deposit and spread a thin layer of metal powder across a powder bed at micron-level precision. Vibration and the turbulence generated from the carriage moving at high speeds on multiple axes created irregular and wavy layers of metal powder. We performed rigorous engineering testing and analysis, including comprehensive structural, vibration, fluid-flow, thermal, and motion. We were able to develop a solid mechanical platform that allowed a process with high resolution and accuracy. This allowed us to develop a metal binder jetting solution that performed at repeatable micron-level precision and accuracy.
Fine (Micron) Powder Handling
Safety is a major concern when working with certain micron powders due to their highly combustible nature. Various techniques and design measures were employed to help mitigate these concerns. An inert environmental chamber was developed to control the levels of oxygen, ignition sources eliminated but using intrinsically safe electronics or moving the component outside of the chamber, and vacuum and pressure control used to help remove excess powders and prevent powder migration to undesired areas.
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