Few experts would deny that additive manufacturing (AM) has developed into a fully-fledged industry. Every year more and more companies join the ranks of 3D printer manufacturers and, even if the vast majority are small startups, the competition helps to propel the industry forward. A number of observers have wondered what might happen if a large multinational corporation were to enter the ring, but none have decided to step up, just yet.
Arburg isn’t precisely a giant of the manufacturing world, but the company is respected for its plastic injection molding machines, and has been in operation since 1923. The company is headquartered in Lossbug, Germany, and has 2,200 employees worldwide. Arburg represents one of the first established businesses to wade into the AM fray with the unveiling of its freeformer 3D printer.
From the website:
We have expanded our product portfolio to include additive manufacturing, opening the door to completely new possibilities in plastic parts production. With the freeformer, you can now efficiently produce fully functional parts singly or in small-volume batches – very easily from 3D CAD files and without a mold. With our unique freeformer, you can satisfy today’s requirements for variety and individual products.
Arburg’s AM process is based on plastic, but differs greatly from the material extrusion printers (such as those produced by Stratasys) that have become generally available. In place of plastic filament, the freeformer uses plastic beads, which are melted inside the system. The melted plastic is forced out the nozzle in the form of plastic droplets, which build up an object over time. According to the company, its process doesn’t require support materials, and uses less materials overall.
Another difference is the print head. Instead of the nozzle moving over the surface of the build area, the build area moves around the nozzle utilizing 5-axis of movement to complete a build. The company also claims that multiple colors and materials can be processed simultaneously, giving customers a flexible AM tool similar to that offered by Stratasys’ Objet line of 3D printers.
Still missing, so far, are any detailed technical specifications about the freeformer. We don’t know its build envelope, print speed, or resolution. While Arburg has claimed its system is capable of working with multiple materials, it hasn’t yet released any specific information. The system is intriguing, and Rapid Ready will be watching for more details as they become available.