Sweden’s Höganäs AB and Piab AB have formed a partnership to leverage their respective areas of expertise with the goal of advancing automation in Additive Manufacturing, aiming to increase the sustainability and efficiency of the process. Together, they are developing new solutions said to minimise metal powder waste while improving process efficiency and safety.
In many industrial AM applications, manual handling and loading of materials are still common practice. Piab and Höganäs are working together to introduce a new range of solutions that will enable customers to implement improved automation and optimised AM processes in order to save time, reduce waste, improve efficiency and secure a safer working environment.
Conveying metal powders poses specific challenges, such as the high bulk density and other material characteristics. Höganäs has extensive knowledge of metal powders and material containment solutions, which will be combined with Piab’s existing products, such as the piFLOW® range of vacuum conveying solutions, to optimise both material handling processes and to develop new industrial-scale solutions. This also contributes to a higher level of operator safety.
Today, the partners are offering bespoke solutions for metal powder management which are based on existing piFLOW technology. These solutions are machine agnostic and can be used in multiple applications during the build process, including filling the build chamber with virgin or reclaimed metal powder, filling the sieve or hopper, or reclaiming the excess metal powder for reuse.
The goal of the new common development projects is to make the conveying of bulk metal powders even safer and easier, and to ensure that excess powder can be reused immediately, which reduces waste and helps to improve sustainability. This means that not only is waste disposal reduced, but also the amount of powder used is maximised, allowing manufacturers to make more with less. This new line of standardised technology will help further industrialise AM production and facilitate large scale manufacturing and industry 4.0 plans.
“Through this partnership, we can offer our customers better, more sustainable ways to work with their metal powders,” explained Kennet Almkvist, President Customization Technologies, Höganäs. “It’s also a big step forward in the industrialisation of these processes, as it removes elements of manual handling while optimising the amount of powder that’s utilised in the printing. Piab has a long standing legacy in providing world-class automated conveying solutions, and together with our metal powder expertise, this range of products will make a real positive difference to our customers.”
The solutions are said to cater to a range of Additive Manufacturing technologies, including Powder Bed Fusion (PBF) and Binder Jetting (BJT). This means they can be integrated into almost any metal powder-based production process.
“Höganäs is a true pioneer when it comes to metal powders,” stated Floris Rouw, President Vacuum Conveying Division at Piab. “With this joint offering, customers can benefit from a combination of Höganäs’ powder expertise and our conveying solutions that improve automation and, in turn, efficiency.”