Hybrid Additive Manufacturing "Additive Manufacturing Starts in the Head."
Pi2 Process is the only supplier in Switzerland that specializes in hybrid additive manufacturing. The company, with a basis on conventional machining, relies on consistent process-oriented thinking.
“The Swiss industry has to move away from simple functionality — towards processes," concludes Pietro Pignatiello, CEO and owner of Pi2 Process AG, about the future of Switzerland as a manufacturing location. This is also how he describes the philosophy of his company. Pi2 Process emerged from Otto Ackermann AG, a specialist for the machining of aluminium, plastic and non-ferrous metals components, in the course of a succession plan implemented in 2016. Still the main business fields of the company with its 23 employees is in the machining of prototypes, including the reliable production of small, medium and large product series. In addition, the company assembles complex component groups as a general contract, covering services ranging from procurement to function control and transport. However, the real strength of Pi2 Process lies in process optimization. The company wants to optimize the interaction between man, machine and organization with the aid of efficient and intelligent processes.
Hybrid Additive Manufacturing — 3D Printing Without Post-Processing
P. Pignatiello sees new opportunities offered by generative manufacturing processes: "Additive manufacturing opens up completely new technical and economic opportunities". His company has entered the field of 3D printing technology for plastics and steel. Pi2 Process is the first and only company in Switzerland to work with the Lumex Avance-25 from Matsuura Hybrid Additive Manufacturing. The procedure was introduced with the direct support of Matsuura and the Swiss trading partner Newemag | Schneider mc. The disadvantage of usual 3D printing processes is that the components have to be reworked. P. Pignatiello describes the advantages of the additive process: "Additive manufacturing starts in the head". Rolf Jauch, Sales Manager at Newemag | Schneider mc, confirms his notion.
Production of Injection Molds in Only One Processing Step
“We must finally consider the entire process," affirms P. Pignatiello. One example of this is a special injection-molded part for a connector used in the automotive industry. The injection mold was produced conventionally from several different individual parts in different processing steps involving milling, turning, grinding and eroding and then assembled. With Lumex, injection these molds can be produced in one piece. The assembly and fitting of the individual parts is no longer necessary. In addition, Lumex's hybrid technology enables the production of thin and deep ribs, so the mold can be manufactured without the need for a complex erosion process. This also reduces the design effort for the injection mold, as there is no need to develop electrodes for eroding. The time and effort involved in creating the various NC machining programs is also eliminated. Depending on the component, it is possible to reduce the lead time from design to the finished mold by 50 % with hybrid additive manufacturing.
In addition, Lumex is able to produce three-dimensional cooling channels. This means that the cooling channels can be optimized for short cooling times. In contrast, the design of conventional post-processing cooling channels dependents on the mechanical feasibility, which is usually associated with longer cooling times. With the optimized three-dimensional cooling channels, it was possible to reduce the cycle times for casting the injection molded part by a third.
Lighter Spindle Thanks to Weight Reduction
Another major advantage of hybrid additive manufacturing is weight reduction. The best example of this comes from Matsuura itself. Matsuura used to produce a certain part for the housing of the milling spindle conventionally. Eleven individual parts had been produced in different machining processes. Today, the same part is produced in one piece using hybrid additive manufacturing. This has resulted in a weight reduction of 6.9 kg to 4.2 kg. Since additive process generates the component very close to the final contour the amount of waste is also reduced. The entire machining process for this component has been significantly improved by hybrid additive manufacturing. Very high demands are placed on quality and the precise manufacturing of spindle components. Therefore, the conventional production of spindle components is very complex and expensive. The individual parts must be manufactured very accurately, the positional tolerances are very narrow, and quality must be monitored. In addition, there is the entire logistics chain and storage costs until the end product is assembled. Hybrid additive manufacturing eliminates the need for all logistics processes and the component can be completed in one piece.
Generative methods have proven their suitability for lightweight construction. Since the processes give complete freedom of design, components with cavities and network structures can be manufactured. The weight of the components can be optimized according to strength and stiffness requirements. These are just two examples of the potential offered by generative processes and hybrid additive manufacturing. P. Pignatiello sees great opportunities for Swiss companies: "Today, every company in Switzerland is under enormous pressure to cut costs. Actually, every manufacturer in Switzerland should consider using it."
Niche with a Potential
Pi2 Process also takes its own processes into consideration. “We want standardized processes," explains P. Pignatiello. For this reason, all processes in the company have been converted to SAP. In 2018 Pi2 Process will move into a new company building in Freienbach covering 2000 m2. The move is to be a further step towards improving internal processes and enabling further growth in assembly and production. In addition, there will be a training room for additive manufacturing and a separate production room for Lumex. P. Pignatiello says: "Additive manufacturing occupies only one niche, but this niche offers enormous potential for many products".
This article was first published by Schweizer MaschinenMarkt.