Special machines with 3D printed components in metal
ODIN Engineering is a machine factory with a tradition of finding solutions that do not yet exist. As something relatively new, 3D printing in metal is also used to be able to produce items that would otherwise be very difficult to produce with traditional machining. With 3D printing it is possible to create complex geometries that cannot be milled due to the size and consequent inaccessibility of the milling tool.
The employees at ODIN Engineering think outside the box on a daily basis to solve the task of manufacturing components that are part of the unique solutions and special machines for the customers.
This was also the case when the team had to design, produce, and deliver a machine solution for JUAL A/S. A customer who produces accessories for roofs and facades for the construction industry in Denmark and large parts of Europe.
One of the stainless steel components of the machine had to fit into a place with very little space. It was investigated whether the component could be split so that it was easier to produce, but this was not an option. Therefore, it became a component with machining from all sides. A solution that causes a lot of tension in the component, and there is a risk that it will bow after machining, and subsequently be scrapped. Traditional manufacturing would take four to five working days.
Cooperation with the Technological Institute
Mechanical engineer, Sussi Birkevang, one of ODIN Engineering’s experienced problem solvers explains the design and planning phase:
”It was worth investigating whether the item could be 3D printed in metal. However, we did not have the necessary expertise in 3D print construction or a 3D printer that could print in metal. I knew that the Technological Institute had the expertise and the printer, so we contacted them to get the component manufactured, and to learn more about 3D metal printing.”
Stainless steel in powder form
If you have not seen it, you have to use your imagination to understand how it is possible to print in metal, particularly in stainless steel, as was the case with the component for JUAL’s special machine.
Technically, it is done with SLM technology, where the steel in the form of powder is heated with a laser and then laid in layer upon layer.
Metals for 3D printing are more expensive than other forms of the same metal. So, in cooperation with the Technological institute, the team decided to produce the item as a grid model. Less material is used without affecting the strength of the finished item.
”Of course, the cost matters when you have to choose between different forms of production,” says Sussi Birkevang continuing: ”In that connection, it’s quite crazy to think that it would take us four to five days to produce the item in the traditional way, but it could be 3D printed in 10-12 hours, and without someone standing next to the 3D printer to control the process.”
3D printing requires competent industrial technicians
3D printing in metal is here to stay. Also, at ODIN Engineering. But if you think that it will make skilled industrial technicians unemployed, you are wrong. On the contrary, it requires both craftsmanship and further training. As in all other professional areas, the profession develops. Most often, there is a need for a combination of printing and machining, which was also the case in JUAL’s solution. The metal printer could not handle the pin holes that the component needed. The pin holes have an H7 fit with a tolerance from +0 mm to -0.013 mm.
”It cannot be 3D printed that precisely, so our skilled colleagues had to mill it on our own machines,” says Sussi Birkevang.
The future of 3D printing at ODIN Engineering
JUAL’s solution has convinced Sussi Birkevang and her colleagues that it is not the last time ODIN Engineering manufactures 3D printed components. 3D printing also opens up other new possibilities.
”At ODIN, we’re problem solvers and like to look at new possibilities,” says Sussi Birkevang and explains: ”It can be an advantage for our customers that we 3D print particularly important items or components for our solutions.”
The future of 3D printing at ODIN Engineering has also piqued the interest of industrial technician apprentice Asger Holmquist. Participating in the development of JUAL’s solution has made him want to know more. Initially, this has meant that Asger Holmquist writes his final assignment on 3D metal printing and the JUAL project.