FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, GERMANY — For fans of 3-D printing, Fakuma 2014 marks an important date: Arburg is taking German orders for the Freeformer.
Arburg GmbH + Co. KG is showing two Freeformers at Fakuma, in stand A3-3101.
After a decade of development, Arburg introduced the Freeformer one year ago, at the K 2013 show in Dusseldorf. Arburg became the first plastics machinery company to also make a 3-D printing machine. At K, the company announced the Freeformer with much fanfare — dramatically lifting a huge curtain, with a body-suit wearing acrobat atop the machine.
This week, on the shores of Lake Constance, Arburg is ready to begin selling them in Germany. Arburg officials said the first serial machines will be delivered in Germany by next March or April.
Here is the rollout plan for the rest of the world: Sales will follow for the rest of Europe in April, after NPE 2015 in March to the United States, and to Asia after Chinaplas 2015 May.
The Freeformer has a discharge unit with a patented nozzle that opens and closes up to 100 times a second, depositing drops of liquid plastic to build up parts, layer by layer.
By the end of this year, Arburg will have sold about 20 Freeformers on a pilot basis, Heinz Gaub, Arburg's managing director of technology and engineering, said at a Tuesday news conference. Gaub stressed these are production machines that were purchased by the customer, not placed for free.
At Fakuma, Arburg is showing mass customization by making personalized scissors, in a combination of a Freeformer 3-D printer with an injection molding machine, an electric Allrounder 370 E.
Visitors to Arburg's stand can get scissors-in either left-handed or right-handed versions-with pointed or rounded ends. The operator places the desired scissor blank directly into the robotic gripper. The robot then transfers the insert into the mold. After the handle has been molded on, a laser applies an identity code on the part, so each individual pair of scissors can be tracked. At the Freeformer station, individually configurable lettering is then additively applied onto the scissors, a process that takes about two minutes.
Freeform your name on it and nobody will steal your scissors again!
The Arburg host computer system (ALS) networks the various work stations and records all production data and test results before transmitting these to a central web server. Each visitor can use a mobile device to call up the parameters for “his” or “her” scissors online from a personal web page via the code.
The second Freeformer demonstration is not as much fun as the scissors, but just as important, according to Arburg officials: Showing the latest development of supporting structures that can be removed in a water bath or mechanically, after the part is printed. The part is a sliding lock, a spare part for Arburg machines.
In other technology news at Fakuma, Arburg is the particle-foam composite injection molding (PCIM) process on a production cell built around a hydraulic Allrounder 470 S. For the first time, a foaming system is integrated directly into the production cell. The part is a screw socket of injection molded polypropylene, surrounded by a round, expanded polypropylene foam housing.
The surface of the PP or PS melts in a defined manner, so a strong, permanent bond is created between the two components.
At the news conference, Arburg executives said business is solid in most markets around the world. Michael Hehl, managing partner and spokesman for the managing board, said 2014 sales should top 500 million euros, up from 470 million euros in 2013.
“It's going to be quite a bit above 500 million,” Hehl said.
Arburg also has expanded its workforce by 4.5 percent this year, to a total of 2,350 worldwide. Of those, 1,950 work in Germany, including Arburg's headquarters in Lossburg, Germany.