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Tech Buzz

3D Printing

Stewart Gordon Smith, business development manager of Meech International, looks at 3D technology

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Meech International claims its Hyperion 924IPS Short-Range Pulsed DC Ionising Bar is ‘one of the most compact pulsed DC bars on the market’

Obstacles of the next dimension

3D printing, also commonly referred to as ‘additive manufacturing’, has been firmly in the spotlight for the past few years, as stories of 3D printed cars and prosthetic limbs grab headlines across the world’s news outlets, while industry experts herald it as a technology of the future.

Such proclamations are not unjustified, as the concept itself is nothing short of remarkable: the creation of three dimensional solid objects from a digital file, using additive processes. In additive manufacturing, an object is created by laying down a succession of layers of material, until the desired shape is fully formed. Each of these layers can be viewed as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.

However, businesses that use this technology could face issues that can be linked to the generation of static on the model powder during the printing process. In 3D printing, the main material used for manufacturing can be stabilised with a support material, which means that the presence of static charges can cause cross-contamination between the two materials.

Businesses that use this technology could face issues that can be linked to the generation of static on the model powder during the printing process

A number of different materials can be used for additive manufacturing, one of the latest being titanium in powder form, which of course is conductive. If static charges are present on the support material, the static charges can cause this to mix with the titanium dust, which will inevitably affect both the structural strength and the quality of the final 3D printed object. Once the support material is removed after firing, imperfections can be found in the finished titanium casting.

In other 3D printing processes, UV is used to cure the 0.003" layers between each application. The curing process is also capable of generating static charges on some materials, resulting in poorer quality products.

Eliminating static

To avoid being faced with weak or defective products, it is necessary to eliminate all traces of static on the mould between printing processes, which in turn prevents the powders from being repelled or mixed with the support material. This can be achieved by mounting an ionising bar behind the print head, to ensure continuous static elimination is maintained throughout the additive manufacturing process.

A selection of Meech’s anti-static bars from the Hyperion range are suitable for this type of application, depending mainly on the size of the 3D printer that is being used. The Hyperion 924IPS is ideal for small printers, whereas the Hyperion 929IPS is better suited for larger systems. Both anti-static bars provide class leading static elimination, with the bars’ default settings allowing quick and easy installation for use in additive manufacturing, as well as other digital print applications.

Meech International’s head office is situated in Witney, Oxfordshire

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