November 17, 2015      

New materials are enabling 3D printers to create components for high-performance applications such as aerospace and military uses. In combination with industrial robotics, refined software, and international partnerships, 3D printing is yielding more complicated and durable parts.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Arevo Labs has introduced robot-based additive manufacturing (RAM), which includes ABB‘s IRB 120 six-axis robot, a deposition end effector, and CAD/CAM and kinematics software. Arevo’s RAM system works with ABB’s RobotStudio programming and simulation software.

RAM allows for “production-quality parts constructed with true 3D surfaces in variable orientations,” the company said. “The resulting parts have strength and aesthetics superior to those made with conventional Cartesian-based additive manufacturing equipment and software.”

In addition to its flexible design software and improved production efficiency from its automated components, Arevo’s Additive Manufacturing Platform is scalable from 1,000 cubic millimeters to 8 cubic meters.

“We are excited to be the first to develop a robot-based additive manufacturing platform optimized for composite parts,” said Hemant Bheda, Arevo CEO and founder. “Unencumbered by the constraints of conventional Cartesian systems, this platform is the dawn of the additive manufacturing work cell for the aerospace and defense factory of the future.”

“We are glad to see ABB’s robot performance and capabilities being fully utilized with Arevo Labs’ software in printing true 3D surfaces,” said Nicolas De Keijser, new applications business-line manager at ABB.

“This may be the first commercial partnership seeing this technology brought to the market,” wrote Michael Molitch-Hou in 3D Printing Industry. “And the fact that the RAM system can use industrial composites makes this a particularly interesting development.”

Composite 3D printing

Arevo Labs recently said that it can use composite materials including thermoplastics, carbon nanotubes, and carbon or glass fiber to create lighter, stronger parts for industries that require durable components.

?We are excited to announce commercial availability of 3D-printed PEEK [polyetheretherketone] and PAEK [polyaryletherketone] composite parts for the first time,” Bheda said. “We have successfully developed end-use applications in aerospace, single-use medical devices, oil and gas, and factory automation and are working closely with OEMs to scale up production.”

“Fabricating high-performance composite parts with 3D printing opens up new design opportunities for us,” said Kent Holder, a product-line manager at Superior Energy Services Inc. in Houston. “The two main advantages are improved complex geometries and new material possibilities.”

?I can confirm that the drone arm printed with Arevo’s Katevo-CF material with no internal structure is much stronger than a carbon fiber-filled SLS arm with inner ribs,” said Ido Baruchin, head of design at Menlo Park, Calif.-based Matternet, which has developed an autonomous drone for last-mile logistics.

Prodways to use Exceltec’s polymers

Prodways has acquired Exceltec, enabling the 3D printing company to integrate Exceltec’s polymers into its new ProMaker P printers. The cost of the acquisition was not available.

Prodways is a subsidiary of Paris-based Groupe Gorge, which specializes in 3D printing, industrial products and services, smart safety systems, and protection in nuclear environments.

Exceltec develops and distributes polymers for industrial 3D printing using selective laser sintering. The Lyon, France-based company is developing materials for demanding applications.

“We are convinced that the future of 3D printing lies in high-performance materials specially designed for large-capacity industrial solutions, while keeping production costs under control and optimized,” said Olivier Coulet, director and founder of Exceltec.

Prodways will use Exceltec’s polymer sintering powders for 3D printing of automotive, industrial, and military applications. The parts can come multiple colors and be fire-retardant, among other characteristics.

Although the companies’ offerings will be combined, the brands and corporate structure will remain intact. Prodways took a 45 percent stake in Varia 3D Inc., a printing materials and services provider in Liberty Hill, Texas.

In addition, Prodways recently partnered with Germany-based Laser Sintering Services GmbH (LSS) and China-based Hunan Farsoon High-Tech Co. for printer maintenance and research and development, respectively. BASF has also worked with LSS and Farsoon on developing materials for 3D printing.

Prodways said its alliance with Farsoon allows it “to compete with existing market players and become the only non-American company to offer a very large range of technologies using plastic and metal powders, as well as liquid resins.”