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A team of researchers at the Fraunhofer IWU has developed Screw Extrusion Additive Manufacturing ( SEAM ) – a new additive manufacturing process based on the extrusion of plastic, intended in particular for the mass production of components. Compared to 3D printing using fused deposition modeling (FDM) or fused layer modeling (FLM) processes, SEAM achieves eight times the process speed. According to the researchers, it takes just 18 minutes to produce a 30 cm-high component, whereby the printer processes up to 7 kg of plastic per hour.

A specially designed unit that melts the raw material forms the basis for the process, combined with a construction platform that can be swiveled on six axes. It can be tilted by up to 45 degrees, works at a speed of 1 m/sec, and does not require any additional supporting structures. The process also allows for printing on existing injection-molded components. According to the Fraunhofer institute, the SEAM process is compatible with various basic materials, from cost-effective plastic granulate and thermoplastic elastomers through high-performance plastics with a 40% carbon fiber content.

In particular the automotive industry is increasingly turning to 3D printing for series production: BMW alone has printed 1 million parts in the last ten years.