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The injection molding specialist Arburg has developed plastic Freeforming, its own special process to additively produce plastic components. A machine can construct individual, fully functional components from miniscule plastic droplets without using tools – straight from electronic construction data (3D-CAD).

As the exclusive partner of the Additive Manufacturing Plaza, this German machine manufacturer will demonstrate how the new process works. "At this special display, we are not only presenting our Freeformer and Arburg Plastic Freeforming (AKF) technology, but also promising ways of using Industry 4.0 technology to deploy additive manufacturing and injection molding throughout the process chain," explains Heinz Gaub, CTO, Arburg.

The new machines only need a power outlet, 3D CAD data and conventional plastic. Gaub sees this as a “great advantage” since plastic granulates can be procured quickly and are not nearly as expensive as special materials.

According to Arburg, AKF can also be used to manufacture functional two-component parts that could not be produced using other additive manufacturing processes. One example is a clamp in a hard-soft combination made of acrylonitrile butadien styrene and thermoplastic elastomers that can be turned inside-out. In addition, the Freeformer creates virtually no emissions, waste or dust, removing the need for exhaust systems.

Arburg believes that plastics processing firms who want to produce quality components as one-offs or in small batches with many variations will benefit most from its plastic Freeformer technology. According to the company, the system is also of value “for prototype builders, design engineers, product developers and rapid manufacturing service providers who will use it mainly in cases where a new part or a working model need to be made,” states Heinz Gaub. User-specific individualization of large batches from plastic is also possible.

Gaub sees a further advantage in the fact that Arburg customers with the system “bring additive manufacturing into their companies and are thereby more flexible." For example, new products can be developed directly from 3D CAD data: CAD design changes can be immediately incorporated into the next generation of a prototype or a product in a series. Functional models do not need to be obtained from suppliers and the know-how remains in the company.

In addition, parts can be produced according to need on a daily basis. According to Arburg , the machines can even manufacture their own components such as the casing for their main switches. “This is not only manifest in ongoing production, but also when dealing with the availability of replacement parts for older products," explains Heinz Gaub. Furthermore, it is no longer necessary to store tools to ensure that they are available at some point in the future. As a result the need for storage space, and the time and effort spent on logistics can be vastly reduced since the parts will be produced when they are needed, negating transportation costs and times.

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