AMT has partnered with Mitsubishi Electric to create a UL-approved automated post-processing set-up based on articulated arm robots and machine control systems.

The companies suggest that the combination of AMT’s PostPro 3D platform with Mitsubishi’s MELSEC iQ-F Series compact PLC, HMOs, SCADA and MELFA arm robots fully automates the finishing of 3D printed parts, allowing companies to scale from finishing a few parts every hour to hundreds of parts.

AMT’s PostPro 3D system is capable of processing parts additively manufactured with laser and high-speed sintering, Multi Jet Fusion and Fused Deposition Modelling technologies in thermoplastic polymers like polyamides, polyurethanes and elastomers. Parts can have their surfaces finished to 1μm precision and can now be loaded in and out of the post-processing machine using an integrated Mitsubishi Electric six-axis robotic arm.

Once parts are loaded, users can select the desired surface roughness and additional surface qualities, such as the type of finish, with processing data being stored and analysed in real-time for continuous process and machine monitoring. A cycle time takes roughly 90-120 minutes, with parts ready to use upon release and the machine able to automatically re-order consumables.

Supporting the combination of PostPro 3D and the optional robotic arm technology are Mitsubishi Electric power supply and low voltage switchgear, servo drives and motors and FR-D700 frequency inverters. Users can also leverage Mitsubishi Electric’s GOT2000 HMI operator terminal, which enables operators to set finishing parameters and monitor the process using the company’s advanced SCADA featuring 3D graphics to ensure efficient operations and perform preventative maintenance.

Being able to harness this automation technology from Mitsubishi Chemical is allowing AMT to deliver post-processing solutions that are suitable for Industry 4.0, the company’s CEO Joseph Crabtree believes.

“To realise our concept, we needed an automation partner that could provide the whole range of machine control systems, as well as the actual robotics,” he said. “This is fundamental to truly integrate our machine into the production line of the future as well as to benefit from a lean, single vendor distribution model. In order to expand and deliver our solution in the US, Europe and China, we needed to build a system whose components are all accredited according to national governing regulations, such as UL and CE marking standards.

“Mitsubishi Electric was the clear choice because it offers a one stop shop for state-of-the-art automation solutions. In this way, we can be sure that the different components are compatible and can share data. Overall, the company can offer us products that adhere to UL, CE, as well as Industry 4.0, requirements.”

Aligning with Mitsubishi Electric, AMT believes it will now be able to have a greater impact within a range of sectors, from aerospace and automotive to medical and footwear. In announcing the partnership, the companies note how the manual post-processing of 3D printed parts can account for 30-70% of the total manufacturing costs and by adding this level of automation they could significantly reduce those costs and make high-volume production with additive manufacturing more feasible.

“It was very exciting to work with AMT on such an innovative product,” added Gary Hatfield, Key Account Manager for the Yorkshire Region at Mitsubishi Electric. “The process of realising AMT’s vision of a fully automated process that can be integrated into the digital workflow of a production line will interest a lot of people currently.”

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