There were countless of 3D printers of all shapes and sizes on display at Additive Manufacturing Europe 2016 in Amsterdam this week, but one clearly stood out from all the others: the TRUMPF TruePrint 1000 metal 3D printer. The only industrial-grade metal 3D printer on display, it’s the kind of machine that aerospace and automobile companies are using to fundamentally change engineering as we know it. TheTruePrint 1000 was first announced in late 2015 and has already been shipped to a number of clients, though the model visible above is the first to arrive in the Netherlands.
What’s more, TRUMPF seems to have delivered on all fronts, though of course the announced 3D printer looked very promising already. At its core, the TruPrint 1000 is a laser metal fusion (or LMF) 3D printer, which builds objects layer by layer by fusing powered metal materials together – paving the way for very complex geometries. Think objects with internal channels and hollow spaces, but then made in a single piece. It is also a cost effective option for making individual parts or very small product runs, they tell us.
Though the machine is shaped like a very broad refrigerator, the focus is actually completely on a 200 watt laser and a cylindrical build space of just 100 millimeters in diameter and 100 millimeters tall. But the real mechanics are hidden away in two chambers just below the build space. Metal powder is placed in the chamber on the left, while a chamber on the right acts like a recycling chamber. “For every layer, the left chamber goes up 20 micron meters to bring more powder up, and once it is ready, the other chamber goes down 20 micron meters to make room for more powder,” Edwin Kloese, Service manager at TRUMPF revealed. “The powder is swept over the part and fused with the laser, after which the excess powder is then removed and the process starts again.”
At every return to the supply cylinder, a clever mechanical design tilts the coating mechanism slightly for a perfect angle. What’s more, the laser itself guarantees a fantastic resolution, which is perfectly illustrated by the 3D printed heat exchanger visible above – 3D printed in just six hours. But dental or jewelry prints are also completed in a stunning resolution and there’s something in the TruPrint 1000 for all professional users thanks to a wide range of available material options – stainless steel, tool steel, cobalt-chromium, aluminum, nickel-base alloy, bronze. Titanium and precious metals such as gold and silver are also available in an option package.
But as the TRUMPF team explained, they designed the TruPrint 1000 to be very accessible as well. The user interface, optimized for simplified touch screen control, intuitively takes the operator through the individual phases in the process. And to ensure perfect results, the chamber is kept almost completely oxygen-free. “We flush the chamber with nitrogen to blow away the oxygen. This prevents corrosion on the parts. Only for titanium 3D prints, we use argon gas rather than nitrogen,” Kloese said.
But equally impressive was the part visible below, which was 3D printed on another 3D printer by TRUMPF, a laser metal deposition (LMD) machine that wasn’t present. “It’s a regular tube, but we used a laser-cladding method to deposit metal powders and laser them together immediately,” Kloese revealed. “It’s a more difficult technology, but perhaps even more useful.”
With these remarkable 3D printing technologies, TRUMPF is thus working hard to find its own place in the metal 3D printing industry. “TRUMPF itself is in the sheet metal processing industry, but this is a completely new market for us and a new technology for our clients. Aerospace, automobile… Once of our clients restores classic car interiors. He can’t buy parts anymore, but he can build new ones,” Kloese revealed.
What’s more, TRUMPF is very confident about the machine’s chances, especially because it stands out from all its competitors. “The market is picking it up right now, but a lot of companies are still feeling around and looking at its potential. Our benefit is that our machine has an open interface. We are the Android OS of metal 3D printing; you can play with all parameters and optimize it for your own applications,” Kloese argued in Amsterdam. “Metal 3D printing adds something to the industry. It won’t replace everything, but it certainly adds a new dimension.”
The TruPrint 1000 metal 3D printer is now available on the TRUMPF website here, starting at €170,000 – though add-ons for titanium 3D printing can take it over the €200,000.