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Arburg looking to add more materials, sizes to Freeformer

By: Roger Renstrom

June 5, 2014

IRVINE, CALIF. — A year ago, Arburg GmbH & Co. KG surprised the plastics industry when it unveiled its Freeformer 3-D printing technology.

Now the injection press supplier is working to broaden the size and materials range of the equipment.

Arburg Inc. discussed technology advances and demonstrated its Allrounder injection presses and other systems during a day-long productivity seminar in its Irvine center.

The subsidiary of Arburg GmbH & Co. KG informed attendees that the parent firm is making additive manufacturing capability available in Germany now and will have serial production for sale in other markets in 2015.

After eight years of product development and 2012 beta testing, Arburg of Lossburg, Germany, introduced the Freeformer at the K 2013 show in Düsseldorf, Germany.

 “We will have it at NPE 2015 in Orlando,” said Jürgen Giesow, Arburg western U.S. regional manager.

Giesow said each unit in the limited Freeformer production for the German market costs 120,000-150,000 euros ($163,000-$204,000).

Further additive manufacturing development now underway is expected to broaden the size range “en route to availability for use with polyolefins and high-temperature polymers,” Giesow said. “We can use standard polymer granulate — with no need for special cartridges — [but] we cannot do glass fiber filling now. The small orifices would clog.”

During the May 15 event, an Allrounder 470A Alldrive press with Hekuma systems molded a specialized pipette tip with high-flow polypropylene and fast cooling. High-precision molding automation systems firm Hekuma GmbH of Eching, Germany, supplied three robots and camera-inspection capability.

Jan Nietsch of Laguna Beach, Calif., Hekuma’s business development manager for North and South America, said Hekuma plans in 2015 to add a service engineer for the U.S. East Coast. Currently in the Americas, Hekuma has service engineers in California, Mexico and Brazil.

An Allrounder 320C with an Arburg five-servo-axis Multi-lift Select robot molded a polycarbonate card and demonstrated the capability of eGate technology from Synventive Molding Systems of Peabody, Mass. Barnes Group Inc. of Bristol, Conn., acquired Synventive in August 2012.

The eGate electronically controlled hot runner system has “advantages over conventional hydraulic or pneumatic valve gates” operating with cleanliness, precision and repeatability, said Tom Shappie, Synventive global business development manager.

An Allrounder 320C Golden edition with an integral picker robot in a vertical orientation, molded a PC medical reset lever.

Arburg Inc.’s construction of a new 26,545-square-foot U.S. headquarters in Rocky Hill, Conn., is moving toward completion. Currently, the U.S. facility is in nearby Newington, Conn. In addition to the Irvine site, Arburg has an existing U.S. technology center in Elgin, Ill.