In a recent article, we told you about The Jaw-Dropping Perks of 3D Printed Press Brake Tooling. Now, we’d like to give you the background on the machines that make it possible, the SAAM and the SAAM HT. We asked Chris Haid, General/Engineering Manager of CINCINNATI’s Additive Unit, to give us the details, since he was in on the ground floor for most of the technology. “My friends and I were all students at MIT, studying engineering,” he said. “That’s when we came up with a lot of the 3D printing tech.” Chris still spends weekends and vacations working on new projects, so who better to give us the inside information?
Custom Tooling on Demand
According to Chris, “For any fabricator bending lighter gauge materials, our SAAM (Small Area Additive Manufacturing) is a good bet. Yes, you really can bend metal parts with a plastic 3D printed tool – and you can churn out a bunch of them. Air bending 12-gauge mild steel, you can expect to get 1,000 bends out of one printed tool. If you’re bending aluminum for aerospace components, you can get the custom geometries you need by printing up a batch of standard tools.
“With a steel fabricated frame, the SAAM is optimized for carbon-fiber composite 3D printing. You can build parts layer-by-layer to form virtually any shape imaginable. And SAAM is the only 3D printer that enables continuous, unattended 3D printing courtesy of our patented Automated Ejection System.”
Continuous automated operation means the SAAM can deliver high-capacity and functional 3D printing unattended utilizing material ID numbers to identify appropriate set up specs and a collection chamber, able to house one full spool’s worth of material.
The SAAM uses fused filament fabrication (FFF) technology to 3D-print parts directly from a CAD design. Once an STL (3D CAD file) is generated, it can be uploaded to cloud software, which the system will access to download the print data. The data can also be handled locally.
Bringing the Heat
The SAAM HT 3D printer is the next step up in additive manufacturing. “If you want a really strong performance tool or car part, standard 3D printing won’t cut it,” Chris said. “How do you get more strength from your parts? The answer for that is high temperature plastics.”
Enclosed in a bigger and beefier aluminum and steel frame, the SAAM HT has a nozzle that can sustain temperatures up to 500 degrees C (932° F) and a bed temperature up to 250 degrees C (482° F). The SAAM HT’s 160 degrees C (320 degrees F) heated chamber enables printing in performance materials without warping and splitting.
These temperatures allow the SAAM HT system to handle not only polymer and polymer composites, but harder materials such as ULTEM for the aerospace industry; PEEK, a bio-friendly material used in medical applications; and polycarbonates, which are commonly used in general manufacturing for rapid prototyping. It is ideal for the manufacture of any tooling involved in high temperature operations. “Now you’re getting near the strengths of some aluminum alloys along with increased wear resistance and chemical resistance,” Chris said.
The system can also be used for small batch production (from 100 to 1,000 parts per run). It also comes with the Automated Ejection System.
Exclusive Automatic Ejection
“We worked on this back when we were in college,” Chris told us. “After building our first 3D printer, we found there were fundamental problems, number one being sharing with two or more people. We made out a schedule on a piece of paper and put it next to the printer. Not very high tech. We decided to take a step back and see if we could make the process more people-friendly. What we came up with was a way to queue parts up. A lot of times, your job will finish at midnight or later. Our design allows you to queue up jobs and run through them without a need for a human operator.”
Once the queuing problem was solved, the group worked on a way the finished product could also be removed from the printer without an operator, freeing it up for the next job in line. They came up with the Automated Ejection System, which consists of a hardened steel blade that slices under the part to detach it. On the return stroke, the mechanism also clears the part and drops it into a dedicated collection chamber for parts that are done printing. “That system is patented,” said Chris. “It’s only available through CINCINNATI.”
“If you lock yourself into one source of materials, they already have you over a barrel,” Chris remarked. “We decided to make a flexible 3D printing system that can work with all the materials out there and doesn’t pigeonhole you into one or five or ten. Using materials from numerous suppliers, you can usually find higher quality at a lower cost.”
“We used the same philosophy for the hardware. We built quality and performance into the machine, but didn’t close the environment. We built our software off of the OctoPrint platform, but you can use it with third party software, hardware, etc.”
“We can simulate any type of part with the SAAM systems,” said Chris. “The same CAD file we use for a plastic prototype can be sent to a laser, a press brake or a shear for metal fabrication. This dramatically reduces waste in the design process and allows shops to accelerate moving to the production phase.”