Arburg has developed the Arburg Plastic Freeforming (AKF) process and Freeformer machine to additively manufacture individual plastic parts without the need for molds or predefined cavities. In this process, 3D CAD files are processed directly, standard plastic granulate is melted, droplets are generated from the liquid melt and a fully functional component is built up from these droplets layer by layer.
The AKF process uses conventional plastic granulates rather than prefabricated supplies such as powders or strands that can make the material, the processing and therefore the parts more expensive. Because the Freeformer can operate without support structures and therefore produces no waste, material consumption is reduced and production is more cost-effective, the company says.
The Freeformer offers conventional material processing that is said to operate in much the same way as injection molding. The machine is filled with the plastic granulate, a heated plasticising cylinder melts the plastic in the discharge unit, a nozzle uses fast opening and closing movements to produce the plastic droplets under pressure, and the part is additively built up. The discharge unit and nozzle remain in a fixed vertical position, while the component carrier moves along three axes. A five-axis version also is available for applications that do not require any support structure.
The machine also can be equipped with two discharge units to process two different materials or colors at once. As a result, even movable, hard-soft combinations or parts with a special appearance or texture can be produced, Arburg says.
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