Applications

Highly flexible for a variety of sectors

Innovative technology and equipment, along with a broad material base, enable ARBURG Plastic Freeforming (APF) to be used for a wide range of applications in various industries and with various processes. The manufacture of components from soft materials is just as possible as the use of the freeformer directly inside a clean room.

This is made possible thanks to the high flexibility of the system arising from the processing of conventional qualified plastic granulates and the modifiable parameters “component density” and “mechanical properties”.

Highlights

  • Additively manufactured functional parts made from qualified standard granulates
  • Functional integration and multi-component technology
  • Production inside a clean room with relative ease
  • Component density and mechanical properties can be modified

Functional prototypes

The particular suitability of industrial additive manufacturing for building functional prototypes is linked to the manufacturing process. The open system of the freeformer specifically permits the use of qualified standard materials that are familiar from the field of plastics processing. The components, which are built layer by layer, combine high strength with other positive properties of injection moulded parts. The items can be used immediately for performance tests, for example. A large and ever expanding materials database contains many qualified materials which are readily compatible for use on freeformers. Production, even of hard/soft combinations, can then get underway at the touch of a button.

Equipment and fixture construction

Industrial additive manufacturing is also particularly suitable for building grippes, fixings and fastenings. ARBURG Plastic Freeforming (APF) enables you to take your individual design ideas to an entirely new level. Use all the benefits of APF to manufacture customer-specific components in line with demand from your own qualified materials.

Components from a single material
Medical technology customers can use standard materials that have medical approval to produce fixings, for example. These plastics can be sterilised and used directly in a production process. The electronics industry can use ESD-safe materials that do not damage sensitive components through surge voltages. Customers in both the aerospace industry and the car industry can use high-temperature materials in the construction of fixtures.

Components from different materials
Fastenings and other devices made from multiple different materials can also be built on our freeformers with multiple discharge units. Think of a gripper with soft structures, for example, to avoid damaging the demoulded components, or a rigid bracket with soft inserts, to prevent the parts from slipping. The possibilities are virtually endless. Combine hard and soft, hard and hard or even two soft materials. Always entirely application-specific.

Flexible components

Functional components and hard/soft combinations made from TPE
All appropriately qualified original materials are suitable for processing on our freeformers. Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) also work particularly well. Functional components and hard/soft combinations are the focal points here. Qualified materials include ABS, amorphous PA and PC, semi-crystalline PP, elastic TPE and special original materials, among others. With the aid of a support material, which is washed away after freeforming, undercuts and complex geometries can also be realised. The open system enables process control to be optimised and both density and filling level to be specifically influenced. For thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), it is even possible to vary the Shore hardness and thus the mechanical properties of the additively manufactured component.

Medical technology

We have attracted a lot of attention in the field of medical technology with our machine technology and the nature of our build process. Once granules are qualified for our freeformers, not only biocompatible but also sterilisable and implantable and even resorbable materials can be processed. The process does not have to be specifically certified. A low-emission and dust-free production process is achieved by working with little peripheral equipment that does not require mould-entry operation on the part of operating personnel.

Surgical templates
Medical aids are typically used as personalised surgical aids, for example. Not least for reasons associated with cost, an increasing number of medical devices that come into contact with blood are being made from plastics. The freeformer offers clear advantages in this sector. They include the high quality of the components produced achieved from minute layer thicknesses and the possibility of manufacturing hard/soft combinations. Sawing templates made from PA for surgical preparation, functional bellows made from medical SEBS (28 Shore A) or breathing masks made from TPE that can be personalised (32 Shore A) are typical examples of medical-technological aids.

Implants
The open system of the freeformer permits the processing of a variety of original materials that are suitable for use in medical applications and have been certified as such, including ABS, amorphous PA and PC, elastic TPU, semi-crystalline PP or PLLA. Implant moving mould mounting platens made from resorbable FDA-approved original material RESOMER LR 706 can be used directly in the body to treat broken bones. The polymer composite is modelled on human bone and contains 30% ceramic additives. As well as being stronger, the component also releases calcium to promote bone regeneration. After a given time, the implant dissolves completely.
Resorbable cranial bones, cheekbones and finger bones made from medical PLLA (PURASORB PL18, RESOMER LR 708) do not have to be surgically removed after healing. As the plastic granules can be loaded with anti-inflammatory agents, for example, rejection reactions are minimised. Even permanent implants (made from PCU (Bionate), for example) can also be manufactured using the APF process and used in and around the spinal area.

Orthotics
As an industrial standard, additive manufacturing primarily helps to produce new and complex geometries and equip new products with enhanced functionalities. Geometric freedom, combined with material freedom, is enabling completely new plastic applications to be achieved for use within the human body. Automatic data processing and processing in the freeformer controller make it easy to produce even complex builds in compliance with the process.
Individual orthotics are an example of aids that are used outside the body and for which additive manufacturing is an ideal production process. Here too, the emphasis is on the one hand on making it possible for these components to be precisely adapted to the physiognomy of the patient concerned and on the other hand on the wide range of possible materials that can be selected. For example, soft materials can be used in sensitive areas to pad adapted body part splints, some of which are fibre-reinforced, preventing the formation of sores or pressure marks.

Pharma
In addition to facilitating the precisely timed degradation of implants inside the human body, the ability of the freeformers to work with resorbable materials is also making pharmaceutical applications possible. A cellulose-based dissolvable polymer, for example, can be used to manufacture tablets that are personalised for individual patients. The carrier material, which is loaded with one or more active agents, dissolves within a freely definable period of time following ingestion and releases the active agents precisely where they are needed. A combined approach involving a combination of different carrier materials is even possible. This enables multiple active agents in individual doses to be ingested into the human body at the same time and released there specifically for treatment purposes.

Clean room production
Production in the range of clean-room classification ISO 6 can be implemented with minor adaptations. All axle drives are designed in closed linear technology and the innovative temperature management of the freeformers takes place in closed circulating air mode. Furthermore, the entire build chamber is designed in stainless steel and your quality assurance teams can access comprehensive data for process monitoring via the standard OPC/UA interface. All of this provided you with a platform for problem-free manufacturing, even in clean rooms.

3D printed electronics

The freeformers can work with materials with fillers up to a size of approximately 10 µm. This is relevant for electrically conductive materials, for example, which up until this point could not be used in additive manufacturing.

Strain gauges
The carbon nano tubes example illustrates what can be achieved with the freeformer in this field: the very first strain gauge has been produced on a freeformer 200-3X in the ARBURG Prototyping Center (APC) in Lossburg from a soft TPU material (PTC Allruna VEL S) with carbon particles and an inlaid LED. The two-component functional component, which was also shown at Formnext, is flexible and electrically conductive yet also incredibly hard-wearing at the same time. Physiotherapy is one area of application for this type of component. Strain gauges can emit a visual or audible signal as soon as an injured arm or a knee that has undergone surgery is excessively over-flexed or under-flexed, for example. This can prevent the risk of further damage during rehabilitation.

Inserts and customising

Our freeformers are also the ideal choice for manufacturing components with inserts or printing onto finished components for the purpose of individualisation. Nothing could be simpler: the build process is interrupted, the parts are inserted and the process is subsequently restarted – done! Plastic parts can also be individualised by adding a small number of layers in a different material or a material of another colour. Let your imagination run wild!

Packaging

In the field of packaging, PP materials can easily be used together with the water-soluble support material armat 12 to manufacture prototypes from PP original material.

PP applications
Film hinges made from PP which are used for flip-top closures on food packaging as well as cosmetic and hygiene products, for example, have to be very flexible without breaking. ARBURG Plastic Freeforming (APF) can be used for the additive manufacturing of prototypes from PP original granules which are almost as strong as an injection moulded part and can be opened and closed hundreds of times. This provides a platform for extensive performance tests and rapid yet cost-effective product optimisation. With the addition of a water-soluble support material, the freeformer is even capable of producing complex geometries and designs.