“Revolutionary” additive manufacturing technology enters Invercargill

Equipment described as the “most advanced additive manufacturing technology in Australasia” has been welcomed onto the workshop floor by Invercargill-based Fi Additive.

The company’s purchase of the PostPro3D, a post-processing additive manufacturing machine, was a timely investment after receiving funding from the government’s $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund.

Additive Manufacturing Technologies (AMT), a UK-based manufacturer of Industy 4.0 hardware solutions, launched the “revolutionary” machine towards the end of 2018, and has been sold across the globe.

The introduction of the PostPro3D to the Kiwi business will mean that the surface quality issues normally associated with 3D printing will become a thing of the past. Manufacturing directly from digital file will fill the gap between prototyping and full mass production, such as injection moulding – offering “endless opportunities for the aerospace, medical, automotive, and every industry in between when it comes to optimising unique production, enhancing the smoothness of parts and generating products with unbeatable air-tightness”.

“The machine uses Boundary Layer Automated Smoothing Technology (BLAST), a physicochemical process that levels out any troughs and crevices of the polymer layers, without damaging or interfering with any of the mechanical properties of that part,” says Derek Manson, manufacturing manager at Fi Additive.

“The result of which would be a higher quality part with improved functionality, visual appearance, sealing, and overall, a product that is market-ready with a far reduced cost component when compared to tooling up.”

As well as generating one-off-use parts, the machine will enable Fi Additive’s engineers to uniquely customise parts – while the process of layering materials stays the same, the geometry capabilities change “dramatically”. It also means the parts are designed to be resistant to any moisture, are food grade safe and biocompatible.

The bridge manufacturing possibilities of combining additive manufacturing and vapour smoothing, also known as short-run manufacturing, allow production of fewer units than injection moulding. Customers can then fine-tune products with minimum wastage of money and resourced.

“With this level of technology, we’re only going to be able to further improve the additive manufacturing services we provide, and the products that really make a difference in people’s lives will be like nothing we’ve ever produced before,” says Manson.

Did you know?

  • The number of 3D printing and additive manufacturing devices is forecast to grow to more than 2.7 million by 2030, an increase of more than two million compared to 2020.
  • In 2019, over half of the total investments in 3D printing technology went to applied 3D printing and 3D printer manufacturers. Manufacturing platforms received 19% of total investments in that year.
  • The history of 3D printing can be traced back to the 1980s. Chuck Hull developed the “stereolithography” process in 1984, which used UV lasers to solidify photopolymer and produce 3D parts layer by layer.
  • The first object that was printed was a small cup. The printer creates many layers from the given digital file and adds layers on top of the layer to get the desired object.