Development of a prototype for Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) for laser sintering of polymer powders.

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Requirements and design specifications

  • Device with productivity, performance and quality comparable to those of commercial analogues.
    Minimising downtime.
  • Commercial solutions provide long downtime between a sintering process and the subsequent, because the process requires high temperatures and the container of the sintered pieces must cool for a time of 8 hours.
  • Possibility of reconfiguring the device with different parameters depending on the type of powder used.
  • Need not to infringe patents.

Performed activities

  • Activity was divided into two phases:
  • Analysis of the technological problem: defining technologies as well as process parameters to achieve the sintering. A test device (technology demonstrator) was developed to perform different activities to understand the sintering technology.
  • Development of the sintering device (prototype): thanks to the knowledge acquired through the demonstrator, this device guarantees a stable repeatable sintering process. A crucial aspect in the development of the device was patent constraints. Commercial devices are protected by patents on the technological solutions they use. The device has been developed taking into account the existing patents and implementing compliant solutions

Goals achieved

  • Opportunity to buy the sintering powder from different suppliers (the current commercial solution bounds customers to a single source) and also to test new types of powder.
  • Maximum reduction in the idle time of the device. Our solution allows to manage two different containers of sintered products: once the process is over, the hot container with pieces is automatically replaced with another one so that the sintering process can immediately re-start and the first cylinder has all the time to cool without stopping the production.
  • Tolerances comparable to the commercial solution.
  • Quality labelling superior than the commercial solution: the device guarantees a readable labelling that does not wear out over time.
  • All process parameters can be modified by the customer to take advantage of the device even as a research and development tool (modifying the process parameters it is possible to sinter different types of powders for 3D printing).

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