CNC vertical milling and turning machining centre specialist CHIRON Group has developed the AM Cube, its first 3D metal printer for manufacturing larger, more complex components. Suitable for coating and repairing components, as well as printing near net shape parts, the new printer extends CHIRON’s core competencies to include additive manufacturing, alongside its existing focuses on metal machining and automation. The AM Cube 3D metal printer was one of the product highlights at CHIRON’s OPEN HOUSE ONLINE held last May 14–19.
“The Additive Manufacturing department is a start-up within our own business group,” explained Axel Boi, head of additive manufacturing at CHIRON. “With this 3D metal printer, made by CHIRON, we are creating a facility for manufacturing larger components with long procurement times and high material prices. This technology can be used effectively in the mechanical engineering, tool manufacturing, energy production and aerospace sectors. These are all important target sectors for the CHIRON Group.”
The new AM Cube is based on a conventional cartesian coordinate system, just like a CNC machining centre. Operation and programming of the AM Cube is intuitive. The system is programmed either using a standardised DIN ISO code or, for complex components, using a CAD/CAM software tool. All aspects of the system can be controlled using tried-and-tested Siemens components, from hardware to the HMI through to programming of the AM Cube.
Unlike other 3D metal printers, the print head of the CHIRON AM Cube can be changed during an active printing/ coating process. This option enables the AM Cube to be used to combine different process requirements: For instance, one print head could be used to achieve a high surface quality, and another could be used to achieve a high deposition rate. The automatic head change function enables these properties to be combined in a single workpiece. This is another area where the professionals at CHIRON have put their comprehensive process expertise and many years of experience in using machining centres into practice. Due to the low quantities manufactured using this process, high flexibility is a crucial factor across all industries. The AM Cube is equipped with a total of three print heads. With the AM Cube, wire and powder as deposition material can be applied within a single manufacturing process in different production phases.
Deposition welding with different raw materials
By designing a printer for the two commonly used deposition materials—wire and powder—the machining centre manufacturer has also patented a completely new technology. Both processes have their applications: While coating with powder is the most commonly used process, wire-based laser metal deposition offers better safety characteristics and an impressive reduction in waste material. Wire also has the benefit that every type of welding wire can be used for manufacturing.
The system is designed as a platform and can be reconfigured from 4-axis machining to 5-axis machining with relatively little effort. The AM Cube is equipped with cutting-edge sensors and meets all relevant safety requirements for operation without monitoring by the operator. If the AM Cube is used to machine particularly reactive materials such as titanium, the entire system can be flooded with protective gas to reduce oxidation, enabling manufacturing to be performed under a protective gas atmosphere for several hours.
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