DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY−Arburg GmbH & Co. KG is riding the wave of fascination with additive manufacturing, as company officials took the wraps off the Freeformer, which takes CAD data and turns out parts made from drops of liquid plastic.
K 2013 show goers can see the Freeformer in action Hall 13, Stand A-13). The first ones will be commercially available next year.
It was a literal unveiling−Arburg executives removed a giant curtain to reveal the Freeformer at a news conference held on Tuesday, the day before the K 2013 officially kicked off.
Additive manufacturing − also known as three-dimensional printing and stereolithography−is evolving from a strange new technology to near mainstream status, at least in a flood of news stories.
Arburg is aiming its Freeformer to product designers, prototype manufacturers and rapid manufacturing service providers.
The Freeformer does not need a mold. It does have a conventional plasticizing cylinder. A key is a rigid discharge unit that contains a patented nozzle that opens and closes using piezo technology−up to 100 times a second.
Arburg worked with the Technical University of Munich to produce the nozzle closure with piezo technology. The discharge unit remains fixed, while the component carrier is moved. Parts are built up layer by layer.
Freeformer also can be configured with two discharge units to make it into a multicomponent machine, so it could even turn out hard-soft combinations or products with multiple colors.
Arburg technical experts began to develop the technology in 2004.
Herbert Kraibühler, managing director of technology and engineering, compared the Freeformer to the Arburg's Allrounder back in 1961.
Freeformer was developed by Kraibuhler and Eberhard Duffner, head of development at Arburg, based in Lossburg in Germany's Black Forest.
Kraibuhler said plastics processors need to have access to additive manufacturing. "Because it is a future topic that affects us all," he said, "We are faced with rapid technical developments, short product life cycles, increasing variety and the desire for customized products."
Duffner said Arburg, as an injection molding machinery maker, has good expertise on making an additive manufacturing machine that will appeal to plastic processors.
"We have reinvented the additive manufacturing process from the perspective of a machine constructor and have integrated material preparation in the Freeformer," Duffner said. "Who, apart from us, knows how to make droplets out of liquid plastic?"