Jan 4, 2018 | By David

As 3D printing grows in popularity, metal AM is likely to contribute the most to the world of manufacturing. Stereolithography and other techniques are a great way to produce quality metal parts or prototypes, and the equipment and apparatus used continues to progress according to specific needs. One of the most important aspects of a metal 3D printer is its powder management system, making sure that the materials are used in an efficient manner. A new powder management system recently released by Russell Finex looks to be one of the most impressive solutions so far.

Powder management systems on metal AM machines are mandatory, and they have two basic but important functions. The first is to qualify incoming powders for the 3D printing process, and the second is to requalify and then recycle any unused material after the print. Using an entirely new metal powder bed after every print would be incredibly costly, labour-intensive, and time-consuming, but reusing the same one without any treatment could lead to the use of contaminated materials. During the print, some of the unused powder particles can deteriorate or merge together, such that they would be unsuitable for use the next time around. A sieving system of some kind is therefore crucial to make the metal AM process as efficient as possible.

Russell Finex has been working with major partners in the 3D printing industry to create its new powder management system, which is known as the Russell AMPro Sieve Station. The system was the recipient of the 2017 Solids Handling Industry Innovation Award, reflecting the level of expertise Russell Finex has built up over the course of its eight decades in the materials handling industry and its continued commitment to improvement. The company was formed in 1934 in the UK and it now engineers machines for a global market, supplying to more than 140 countries.

Three key industry requirements that the Russell AMPro Sieve Station was developed to meet are repeatability, controllability, and a limited need for manual operator involvement. The almost entirely automated system comes with a touch-screen interface, which is completely programmable for many settings. This enables the automatic processing of various powders and particle sizes, so any number of different materials can be used in a printing process without any extra work on the powder management level. Combining the sieving process, unique feed and flow management system and intelligent weigh system into one button press, the system frees up the operator to concentrate on other tasks such as finishing components or getting the printer ready for another build.

Innovations were mostly focused on the main sieve unit, which guarantees accurate high-capacity sieving of powders and thus enables quick process times. All its contact parts are crevice-free and were finished to the maximum standard, which means they can be cleaned quickly and effectively. This allows changeover times of no more than 30 minutes, as well as reducing cross-contamination risk. The unit can also be inert gas purged, which preserves metal powders such as titanium or aluminum and others that are vulnerable to oxidation and moisture exposure.

The design of the Russell AMPro Sieve Station was almost entirely modular, which means that it can be adapted to the requirements of users at any stage of the AM industry, whether start-up or full-scale production. It is compatible with powder vessel transfer, or as part of a closed-loop powder recovery system.

The health risks associated with extensive exposure to the metal AM process and its by-products are a major concern for all manufacturing sectors, and Russell Finex has responded by keeping safety as one of its top priorities. This new system is compliant with ETL and ATEX regulations, and it allows for the operator’s contact with powders to be kept to an absolute minimum.



Posted in 3D Printer Accessories



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