3D Sand Printing Additive Power for Aluminum Spare Parts
Giesserei Blöcher GmbH is now expanding its portfolio by commissioning a new 3D sand printer. This additive manufacturing system enables the company to produce ready-to-use and geometrically complex casting molds in record time.
"From now on, the new 3D sand printer is the technological heart of our customer-oriented spare parts production", emphasises Jürgen Blöcher, owner and managing director of the aluminum foundry. This latest investment in machinery will strengthen the company's market position as a supplier of aluminum molds from batch size 1, which are urgently needed at short notice. With the new 3D sand printer, the medium-sized foundry is well positioned for the on-demand retrieval of complex spare parts, prototypes as well as small and pilot series. Blöcher is currently the first and only company in Europe to use this patented additive manufacturing system from the US manufacturer Viridis.
Complex Geometries Quickly Brought into Shape
The RAM 336 - the official name of the 3D sand printer - is a fully automated, robot-supported complete solution that produces high-precision sand casting molds and cores within a few hours, which are immediately ready for the casting of aluminum molds without any further process step. The system has an installation space of 1,800 x 900 x 900 mm. This means that both individual molds for cavities of this size and several molds of smaller dimensions can be produced in one and the same run. As usual in additive manufacturing, this is achieved by the layered structure of the workpieces. In this case, a quartz sand premixed with a modified furan binder is used for this purpose. "In analogy to the geometric data of the targeted shape, the 3D printer partially applies a hardener to the sand, which shortly afterwards hardens to the exact final contour," explains Blöcher. Since the system works with a dimensional and repeat accuracy of +/- 0.010", even molds and cores with extremely complicated geometries and demanding tempering can be produced.
First Data, then Construction
The data sets for the construction process of the 3D sand printer usually come directly from the 3D design of the toolmakers. However, Blöcher also produces these geometric data according to the customer's design drawings or sample parts. For this purpose, the company has the appropriate 3D CAD systems as well as scanning and digitisation technologies for reverse engineering or re-design. The design data are used to generate the control information for the Viridis RAM 336, which then starts the layering process at the push of a button. At construction speeds of up to 63 height millimeters per hour, the molds and cores grow out of the sand bed in record time. "Whatever dry sand is left over can be reused in the next process. Not least because of this, the whole thing is a material-saving, resource-saving and very economical process," explains Jürgen Blöcher.
Know-How in 3D Printing
The new 3D sand printer is used not only for the rapid production of molds for the manufacture of spare parts and small series in aluminum. The robot-supported system is also used when urgent replacements are needed for defective, worn or lost tools for deep drawing, foaming, rotational molding, thermoforming or blow molding. The company can produce cavities with dimensions of up to 3,500 x 2,500 x 2,000 mm.
Nice to know: From a technological point of view, Blöcher, with the use of its new 3D sand printer, is docking onto the 3D printing know-how of the company FKM Sintertechnik, which operates a modern laser sintering factory in Europe in the immediate vicinity. This also means that thanks to the close cooperation with FKM, Blöcher has a competence advantage in the field of additive manufacturing.