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Premiere at Formnext 2021: AIM3D unveils the innovative ExAM 510 3D pellet printer

  • Considerably higher precision and faster build rates compared to conventional extrusion 3D printers
  • Universal: large 510 x 510 x 400 mm build platform
  • Highly cost-effective: pellet-based processing of high-performance plastics such as PEEK and PPS, with and without fibre filling

AIM3D, a manufacturer of multi-material 3D printers, has developed a new, more powerful 3D printer for the CEM (composite extrusion modelling) process. The new ExAM 510 boasts a larger build area, higher precision and faster build rates. The ExAM 510 printer is a multi-material printer for additive manufacturing that can print up to three different materials in parallel. The ExAM 510 printer is a performance-enhanced version of the previous ExAM 255, both of which will be part of the Rostock company’s product range in the future. The new model will be on show as a prototype at Formnext 2021. After a beta phase with pilot processors, the ExAM 510 is planned to be ready for series production in time for Formnext 2022.

Setting new standards with the ExAM 510 

As the latest addition to the Rostock company’s product line-up, the ExAM 510 printer is a further development of the smaller EXAM 255 model. The innovative multi-material printer can process up to three materials. This allows for two building materials and a support material. The extended build platform of 510 x 510 x 400 mm enables a multitude of applications. The build area can be heated up to 200ºC in order to reduce stresses in the component and to process high-performance materials. It also features a considerably increased build rate, depending on the material, of up to 250 cm³/h (when using a 0.4 mm nozzle).

High precision and excellent component quality 

The ExAM 510 concept enables significantly increased precision of printed components. The objective of developing the machine was to get even more out of the patented AIM3D extruder technology. This extruder class enables an output up to 10 times higher than standard filament extruders. The use of linear motors and a stable mineral cast bed makes extremely precise operation possible even at high speeds, thus fully exploiting the potential of the technology.

Key advantages of diverse materials and cost savings 

The use of a wide range of materials is the particular appeal of the ExAM 510. AIM3D equips the machine with a heated process chamber specially designed for high-temperature plastics. This enables the processing of high-temperature plastics such as PEEK, PEI, PSU, PPS, with and without fibre filling. Corresponding experience with the extruders had already been gained with the ExAM 255. This means that a user can, for example, process PEEK, either unfilled or filled with fibre material, directly in pellet form in additive manufacturing. This results in an enormous cost advantage in terms of the raw materials. Recycling this material is also much easier and cheaper. According to the manufacturer, a material can be tested in 1 to 2 working days and established for production in 5 to 10 working days. The material PEEK, for example, demonstrates these high cost savings most clearly: if the price for PEEK filament is around €700/kg used on conventional additive manufacturing machines, the ExAM 510 can use PEEK pellets, as deployed in classic injection moulding. The market price of around €50/kg for PEEK pellets amounts to only 7% of comparable material costs or a cost reduction by a factor of 14. This opens up completely new dimensions in terms of cost efficiencies.

Areas of application and potential

Classic areas of application for high-performance polymer materials can be found in automotive, medical technology or aerospace. AIM3D's pilot customers are from these industries. Clemens Lieberwirth, CTO at AIM3D: “The further development of our patented ExAM 255 machine into the ExAM 510 is a technological leap for us. So you could say we are now offering a faster, bigger, hotter and more precise CEM process technology for additive manufacturing.”

Table 1: CEM technology – fields of application according to materials

Table 2: Comparison of ExAM 255 and ExAM 510 models

* Depends on the nozzle diameter, layer thickness and component geometry

Table 3: ExAM 510 technical data

Table 4: Range of materials for the ExAM 510

Table 5: Comparison of costs of the ExAM 510 with a professional high-temperature filament printer

*Depreciation, maintenance costs, energy consumption and space requirements were included in the calculation of machine costs

**Boundary conditions for the calculation: material: PEEK 608 g; nozzle diameter: 0.4 mm; layer height: 100 µm; personnel cost rate: EUR 75/h; preparation time: 5 min; rework: 20 min

Background information

Composite Extrusion Modelling 

Composite extrusion modelling (CEM process) combines metal injection moulding (MIM process), which is already established worldwide, with process technologies from additive manufacturing.

This is based on both fused deposition modelling (FDM process) and selective laser melting (SLM process), thus creating an optimal blend of conventional production methods and innovative additive manufacturing.

 The result is a very simple process, based on inexpensive and widely available injection moulding pellets while offering the freedom of additive manufacturing without the need for moulds. The CEM process not only significantly lowers material costs, but also drastically cuts machine costs. Common problems in metal manufacturing, such as residual stresses, are significantly reduced with the CEM process. 

Fused Granulate Modelling 

Fused granulate modelling (FGM) is an additive manufacturing process and is based on the widely used thermoplastic melt layer process (FDM/FFF). 

The print head processes pellets into a thin melt thread and applies it to the build area. Thanks to the automatic generation of support material, more complex shapes can also be realised, enabling custom-made production or prototype production in injection moulding technology. In contrast to the common melt-layer processes, such as fused filament fabrication (FFF), FGM does not use an elaborately produced filament, but conventional series-production thermoplastic injection moulding pellets. 

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