TwoCure, an innovative SLA-based 3D printing method created at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Germany, has been developed into a prototype additive manufacturing system.
First presented by the institute and its partner German prototyping specialist Rapid Shape GmbH, TwoCure technology seeks to eliminate challenges associated with post processing.
Support-free 3D printing
Like SLA 3D printers, TwoCure is a process that uses a light source to solidify photopolymeric materials. However, unlike other technologies of this kind, the TwoCure process does not require the use of support structures, like trees, which are attached to the original CAD model.
In place of supports, objects 3D printed with TwoCure technology are contained within a wax-like resin. When 3D printing, this resin solidifies along with the polymer used to make a 3D object.
Holger Leonards, project manager “TwoCure” at Fraunhofer ILT, explains, “The material is applied warm and then irreversibly cured by light. At the same time the cooled machine ensures that whatever component we are creating layer by layer freezes to form a block together with the resin that has solidified like wax.”
Upon removal from the print bed, the 3D printed object appears encases in a kind of cake/a frozen black of waxy material. To retrieve the components from inside this block, the waxy resin is simply left to melt at room temperature.
Automated post processing
In addition to the support-free aspect of this technology, the TwoCure 3D printer is an advancement in automation for the team.
Once a job is finished, the waxy block and part are automatically ejected from the print bed onto a melting rack. In the future, the team plan to extend this automated feature to encompass cleaning and post curing – the other two steps required to finish a polymerized part.
Leonards adds, “Our plan is to enable users to add 3D printing jobs to a virtual queue that can then be processed around the clock in shifts that run without any human intervention,”
“IN THE LONG TERM, THAT OPENS UP THE POSSIBILITY OF CARRYING OUT ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING ON A 24/7 OPERATION BASIS.”
Automation is one of the key themes of additive manufacturing in an industrial setting. Other solutions seeking to improve this functionality include smart factories like the NextGenAM project, and software platforms such as the LINK3D AMES & Additive Workflow Software.
Fraunhofer ILT and Rapid Shape’s prototype TwoCure 3D printer will be shown at formnext in Frankfurt from the 13th through 16th of November 2018.