Editor's Choice


Control for additive manufacturing

Fourth Quarter 2019 Editor's Choice Electrical switching & drive systems & components

Colossus is a startup enterprise in Belgium, and possesses one of the largest transportable plastic 3D printers on the market. It was developed in cooperation with machine builder IMA. The printer’s trailblazing controls come from Beckhoff and not only control the traversing axes in the machine, but also the temperature of the extruder in the print head.

Colossus plans to manufacture large functional or decorative objects such as outdoor furniture and ornaments with a new 3D printer that processes recycled plastics, and this creates further special requirements. In addition, the 3D printer will be installed in a container and transported to trade shows and festivals as an eye-catcher. The products must therefore be created quickly – much faster than standard technologies. In short, Colossus tasked machine manufacturer IMA with a very ambitious project.

The recycled materials are processed using the Fused Granular Fabrication (FGF) process, in which a plastic granulate is melted in an extruder and the end product is created by applying layer after layer of the material. In this application, the extruder’s print head is moved through space by a special linear portal.

The drive control data for the linear portal are determined in two steps. First, G-code is generated from the 3D model of the end product. The controller processes the G-code and computes the movement of the print head in space. Both of these computing procedures require high processor power.

The IMA team developed an XYZ portal as the drive for the 3D printer. Toothed belts drive both the X- and Y-axes so that the Y-axis does not require a motor. The goal was to save weight, because the extruder alone weighs 70 kg. The XYZ portal itself is mounted on four spindles, each equipped with its own drive. In this way, the printing plane can be kept in perfect parallel to the plane of the X and Y-axis.

PC-based control from Beckhoff was chosen for the control of the printer. One of the components is the heating zone control of the extruder. IMA utilises the TwinCAT 3 Plastic Processing Framework software for this purpose. The extruder has six heating zones with 3-point control. Each zone has a heater band and a fan for cooling. To achieve a stable process, these devices need to be precisely controlled. A shut-off nozzle is used to start and stop the melt flow. This is a motorised valve, which is used to control the flow rate. “The extruder operates with a constant throughput. This means the movement of the print head must be controlled in relation to the geometry of the end product. Users must be able to adjust the corresponding parameters themselves.

The solution developed by IMA is based on a C6030 ultra-compact industrial PC as well as three double actuators and one single actuator implemented via AX5000 servo drives. The visualisation program is written in .NET so that the visualisation layout can easily adapt to the customer’s wishes.

The control software can read in and process large quantities of data in G-code format. TwinCAT CNC takes care of the interpolation and kinematic transformation of the virtual X and Y-axis to the A and B-axis of the XYZ portal. The temperature of the extruder is controlled with the TwinCAT 3 Plastic Processing Framework. The control parameters are determined automatically. With the help of these optimised parameter settings, fast heating with low overshoot is possible.

In order to read out the temperatures of the individual zones and to control the heating and cooling elements, the extruder is equipped with IP67 EtherCAT Box I/O modules. The operator panel is regarded as highly important to optimally convey the exciting possibilities of 3D printing to the public. IMA chose the CP2912 multi-touch control panel with 30 cm display as the visually appealing hardware for that purpose.

The 3D printer from Colossus is a superlative device in every respect and delivers astounding results. Its creative design allows the best possible use of available space inside the shipping and display container. The printer also boasts an impressive output capacity of up to 15 kg per hour.

Colossus presented the first printer at multiple events and trade shows in 2018. There was great interest in the 3D giant and its new method of recycling. More of these printers will be implemented to manufacture products on an industrial scale in the future.

For more information contact Michelle Murphy, Beckhoff Automation, +27 11 795 2898, michellem@beckhoff.com, www.beckhoff.co.za


Credit(s)



Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Moving into 2020 with Festo digitalised products
Second Quarter 2020, Festo South Africa , Editor's Choice
HoloLens, mobile phones, 3D printing and smart glasses – the gadgets that captured the public imagination in the blockbuster movie 'Back to the Future' over 30 years ago have now become a reality, all ...

Read more...
Simplified access to HIV tests
Second Quarter 2020 , Editor's Choice
Roche has developed the Cobas Plasma Separation Card (PSC), a new technology that simplifies and improves the examination and monitoring of HIV patients, particularly in remote areas. For the first time, ...

Read more...
Three lubrication myths that need busting
Second Quarter 2020 , Editor's Choice
As specialists in lubrication reliability solutions, the team at Lubrication Engineers (LE) South Africa frequently comes up against myths relating to lubricants. “People believe things or are taught ...

Read more...
E-Motion on the bike
Second Quarter 2020, Horne Technologies , Editor's Choice
The bicycle is a part of locomotion culture in Germany. Over 97% of people in Germany can ride a bike. They use bicycles not only for bike tours in their free time but also on a daily basis for shopping ...

Read more...
Enabling the smart factory
Second Quarter 2020 , Editor's Choice
Smart manufacturing practices making use of connected technology hold the power to improve efficiency and optimise factory operations. However the increased use of IIoT comes with the threat of a cyber ...

Read more...
Versatile energy saving drives
Second Quarter 2020, Bearing Man Group T/A BMG , Editor's Choice
BMG’s Vacon 100 AC drives have been designed to save energy, optimise process control and improve productivity in many sectors, including processing, mining and minerals, industrial HVAC, marine and water, ...

Read more...
Developing custom lubrication solutions
Second Quarter 2020 , Editor's Choice
The right lubricant, consistently applied at the right interval, goes a long way in extending plant life, minimising downtime and maximising the usefulness of machinery. This is why Lubrication Engineers ...

Read more...
Robots in the medical arena
Second Quarter 2020 , Editor's Choice
The Coronavirus outbreak has highlighted use cases for mobile robotics to successfully disinfect, monitor, surveil and handle and deliver materials. These proven use cases will propel the overall mobile ...

Read more...
Critical support for essential service providers
Second Quarter 2020 , Editor's Choice
BMG has been authorised to provide engineering components and support services to businesses approved as essential service providers, during the country’s COVID-19 lockdown period. “As a customer-driven ...

Read more...
Mobile robots for quiet locations
Second Quarter 2020 , Editor's Choice
NSK has developed an innovative direct-drive wheel unit aimed at OEMs looking to add mobility to their autonomous or collaborative robots. Specifically designed for use in quiet environments such as hospitals, ...

Read more...