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World premiere of ProtoPlastMaker 4.0 – PRINT-ME industrial 3D printer

On November 15-18, 2022, one of the largest additive technologies fairs – Formnext 2022 took place in Frankfurt am Main. According to the organizers, the eighth edition of the event was attended by over 800 exhibitors and nearly 30,000 visitors. During the four days of the fair, numerous premieres of new devices and solutions took place, including new or improved 3D printer models, new consumables – from wood to ceramics, software solutions, services, post-processing and many others. In addition to foreign manufacturers such as CNC Barcenas or CEAD dealing with, among others. PPHU POLIGRAF from Gorzów Wielkopolski also presented its prototype.

According to many reports, additive technologies, including FDM/DPE, are becoming more and more popular every year and constitute a significant part of the additive technology market. Referring to the Wohlers Report 2021, the market of the additive technology industry grew by 7.5% in 2020 alone, reaching as much as USD 12.8 trillion. There is a significant development of machines and solutions for direct extrusion from pellets. Companies from all over the world presented their capabilities and developed innovative advanced components.

As part of the project run by PPHU POLIGRAF: “ProtoPlastMaker 4.0. An innovative center for additive and machining plastics processing, responding to the needs of prototyping in the 4.0” industry, co-financed from European Funds, a modern machine with a basic working space of 1m x 1m x 2m was created, allowing for 3D printing of elements directly from plastic granules and machining in 5 axes without having to disassemble the printed element. The project was implemented in cooperation with the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Mechatronics of the West Pomeranian University of Technology in Szczecin.

ProtoPlastMaker 4.0 is a combination of the greatest advantages of additive technology (printing extruder) and subtractive technology (milling spindle). This solution enables the quick and precise production of architectural details, structural elements or body parts. The machine enables printing directly from granules and machining in 5 axes in one fully automated technological step. It is possible to 3D print large-size details with complex geometries, taking into account allowances or path compaction in places intended for subsequent machining.

A unique feature of the machine is full support for the G-code language. There is no need to know robotic programming language or G-code conversion. All operations performed on the machine can be controlled by standard G-code, which can be written manually or generated from any software for both 3D printing and milling processes. However, to ensure the greatest intuitive operation, ProtoPlastMaker 4.0 has recommended software and special plug-ins/plugins for Ultimaker Cura and SolidWorks for 3D printing and SolicDAM for 5-axis milling operations. This solution allows the designer and technologist to maintain continuity of work. The model cooked in SolidWorks is directly exported to Ultimaker Cura. Where the process of generating the print path in the form of the G-code program is carried out. The program prepared in this way can be directly loaded into the control memory and start the 3D printing process.

The PRINT-ME team, in cooperation with the West Pomeranian University of Technology in Szczecin, has also developed a proprietary extrusion solution, i.e. the so-called extrusion. printing head directly from granules, which is able to extrude 10 kg of plastic per hour in the standard version and even 20 kg / h in the XL version. The solution is so innovative and innovative that it is in the process of securing intellectual property rights with a European Patent Application. The extruder design developed as part of the project enables printing with 100% filling from pure plastics, composite polymers, filament-reinforced plastics, polymer-concrete mixes and concrete. The extruder is equipped with a very dynamic retraction system based on negative pressure.

ProtoPlastMaker 4.0 is especially dedicated to professional companies producing large and large-size details made of plastics and composites, both for serial and unit production as well as in R&D departments. A particularly interesting application is the production of small-series printed injection molds or for castings from epoxy resins. Specially selected plastic granulates are dedicated to the production of such forms. The selected form is first printed using the extruder and then finished using a high-speed spindle.

The use of 3D printing allows you to print an already pre-shaped form, without the need for material allowances. Then, with the use of a spindle, the mold is rough and finished, and structural and technological openings are made.

The start of sales of the additive-subtractive center ProtoPlast Maker 4.0 is scheduled for 2023.

The article is financed under the project number RPLB.01.01.00-08-0020/19 – Priority Axis 1 – Economy and Innovation, Measure 1.1 Research and Innovation – I type of project – R&D projects of enterprises in the Lubuskie Voivodship.

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