Additive manufacturing is a maturing technology well suited to such jobs. A part of complex 3D geometry is built up from details provided in a computer-aided design file. However, improvements in accuracy and post-processing are required to reduce product costs. Within the EU-funded project HYPROLINE (High-performance production line for small series metal parts), researchers demonstrated a high-performance 3D printing production line for serial fabrication of customised high-quality small metal parts. Coupled with this line is a high-speed finishing line using laser polishing. Project partners further developed the manufacturing process itself and carried out research and application work on materials, pre- and post-treatment of the parts produced and supporting software. In this way, HYPROLINE has added capabilities to commercially available manufacturing systems in terms of speed, product quality and versatility. HYPROLINE's sophisticated machine consists of a carousel unit that has room for 100 pallets and a robot that picks and places non-finished components, extracts finished products and adds specific modules. The pallets pass underneath a patented 3D metal inkjet printer (Digital Metal) on a fixed Z axis. A key part of this machine is a laser scanner that compares the finished 3D prints with the 3D models used for them, while a laser ablation module polishes parts and removes any excess material. With the addition of process monitoring and metrology, predicted benefits include reduced time to market, fewer rejects and scrap, and better products with higher market value. The HYPROLINE machine can produce parts from three different metals: stainless steel 316L, titanium and copper. Pilot implementation was demonstrated with serial production of customised high-quality parts on the order of 10 mm for jewellery companies, dental parts and microwave electronics. The automated and high-speed HYPROLINE system for production of small metallic parts with high precision promises to significantly enhance the competitive position of Europe's SMEs. It will also foster the production of innovative components that were previously cost prohibitive for consumers.
3D printing, metal parts, manufacturing, HYPROLINE, production line, laser polishing