ExOne CTO, Rick Lucas, discusses the company’s newest metal binding jetting 3D printer, the X1 Powder Grip and other exciting company updates.
ExOne, a binder jet 3D printer manufacturer, has unveiled its InnoventPro metal 3D printer and accompanying X1 Powder Grip.
The InnoventPro 3L, which will be showcased at Formnext 2021 from November 16–19, will take features of Innovent+ with Triple ACT (advanced compaction technology) for precision dispensing, spreading and compacting of ultra-fine powders. The new 3D printer offers a build area of 125 x 220 x 100 mm along with printhead speeds over 700 cc/hr. The InnoventPro also has the ability to print a new class of NanoFuse binders embedded with nanoparticles to enhance part quality and simplify sintering.
While the machine is available for early-access customers during the first half of 2022, the inert model of the InnoventPro (designed for printing aluminum 6061 and titanium 6-4) is scheduled to be released in late 2022. Siemens, the first of InnoventPro’s customers, plans to use the 3D printer at its Charlotte Advanced Technology Collaboration Hub (CATCH) for the development of materials and processes before scale-up on the X1 160Pro. (It helps that the InnoventPro comes with Siemens controls that integrate with the printer drives, motors and sensors—and that the Siemens MindSphere IoT operating system powers ExOne’s Scout machine monitoring and analysis app.)
Pairing with the InnoventPro, the X1 Powder Grip is part of a comprehensive new powder management system that seeks to eliminate scooping, dumping, powder clouds, and cleanup in the binder jetting of metals. Two X1 Powder Grip containers—each weighing 20lb when fully loaded with 316L stainless steel—are positioned into a powder hopper at the rear of the machine, after which a conveyance system relays the powder hopper into the build area for recoating and printing.
Engineering.com caught up with Rick Lucas, ExOne CTO, to learn more about the company’s plans for Formnext and beyond. With 24 years of experience in advanced materials, Lucas joined ExOne a decade ago with a mission to transform the 3D printer manufacturer into the world-class materials and processing company it is today.
Engineering.com: What’s different about ExOne’s technology?
Rick Lucas: The biggest thing probably is that because we had such a focus on materials and processing, we intentionally built flexibility into our machines.
There is a time when it makes sense to lock down all of the machine settings and optimize for high volume production. But the problem with doing that upfront is, it reduces your ability to process a lot of different materials. So we selected printheads that could jet a very broad range of binders with a large band of viscosities. That’s why our machines can jet everything from sand, ceramics and metals.
Then there’s our dispensing, spreading and compacting technology. Almost every parameter on that mechanical system is adjustable, and you can tune it based on the material. If you look at the number of materials that we have qualified on our equipment, it far exceeds anyone else in the market.
Our materials and processing team worked in conjunction with our machine design team to develop our recoating technology, resulting in our Triple ACT system which has a lot of credibility. It’s the best recoater out there to give you the highest density possible, no matter what powder you’re running. And that’s because of the tunability of that recoater.
Another key differentiator is our machine technology. Our S-Max machine has been the benchmark in the industry for sand printers. We continue to be the market leader in that space, because of the high quality and performance of our machines.
In addition to your new InnoventPro machine, NanoFuse binders and X1 Powder Grip, what else are you showcasing at Formnext?
Our production machines have already been capable of jetting those binders, and it’s exciting that we now have a development machine that will be capable of the same. We’ve basically taken the best of our new tech around materials, powders and processing and put it into this R&D machine.
Customers will also be able to take a close look at our new X1 160Pro machine. It’s 160 liters and 800 x 500 x 400 mm—the largest binder jet fine powder machine on the market today. It’s similar from an industrial standpoint to our heavy-duty S-Max Pro and S-Print machines.
We’ll be showing off different materials and letting customers get a feel for what our machine technology’s capable of. In the last 12 months, we had a huge breakthrough around aluminum 6061. We will have samples that customers can actually handle. We’re also going to have samples of our titanium 6-4. We’ve got a tremendous amount of work going on around copper, and some cool developments around it. We’ll be talking about our sand printing line and other machines. We will have information about the X1 Metal Designlab machine as well.
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