The industrial usage of Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) technology offers a bunch of possibilities, starting with lower costs of production, reduced time to market, great freedom of affordable prototyping, flexibility of manufacturing parts on demand, and so on. However, to take advantage of the full potential of FFF, you need to focus on more than just printing.
There is no doubt that material storage, preparation, and post-processing are also very important. It is because of humidity. To put it in a simple way, some filaments frequently used for 3D printing are hygroscopic and absorb moisture from the environment. This susceptibility to moisture causes troubles at the printing stage, decreasing model quality, reducing its mechanical parameters, lowering layer lamination, and increasing porosity (lower density and dimensional accuracy). These technical issues can be translated into economical language as well: printing with a humid thermoplastic may cause a waste of materials and time, which lowers productivity, and increases losses.
An in-depth analysis of filament conditioning can be found in the previous article.
A tendency to take up the ambient moisture differs between specific thermoplastics, which makes the problem quite hard to tackle. Another difficulty is the fact, that sometimes moisture may not cause visible differences in the material, so the operator is not able to detect faults. Being fully aware of possible moisture issues, 3DGence constructors focused on finding a comprehensive solution to address the concern. This is the story behind our Material
Management System, the machine implemented in 2022. The main purpose of introducing MMS was to solve all possible humid troubles with one device. Thanks to Material Management System, the user can get ready different filaments at the same time and make sure the polymers are ready to be placed in a 3D printer. MMS works with all groups of filaments: high-performance, engineering, and commodity polymers.
Undoubtedly, humid management is pivotal in terms of successful printing in FFF technology. Many filaments, including high-performance materials, tend to absorb moisture and that can ruin the final results, generate extra costs, or inhibit workflow. Thanks to our Material Management System, the 3DGence clients obtain automated material preparation and high-temperature part annealing. Actively dried chambers provide effective multi-material storage with limited labor engagement. We already noticed this all-in-one machine was a game-changer for some companies we cooperate with. – Adrian Stanecki, Application Engineer at 3DGence.
A standard MMS consists of three drying chambers, each of which is equipped with four filament slots, thus one device can deal with 12 spools at the same time. Alternatively, you can pick a one-chamber (4 spools) or six-chamber device (24 spools). Multiple chambers allow the user to store and dry various material groups at the same time. Each MMS chamber has a molecular sieve cartridge, which is an industrial medium used for polymer drying. The drying agent inside the cartridge is responsible for absorbing water molecules from the chamber after the thermal activation of the material. Once a week the operator needs to regenerate the drying agent in each chamber. A simple procedure of regenerating the drying agent will help the operator maintain perfect conditions to dry and store moisture-sensitive filaments. Each device is equipped with a 10’’ touchpad display, insulated doors, four castor wheels, and a NFC tag reader. Having in mind operator safety, we implemented temperature sensors, chamber locks, door opening sensors, and over-temperature sensors for electronics. The machine uses WiFi and LAN to communicate, it also has a USB slot.
Designing MMS, we targeted minimizing the risk of operator mistakes. As a result, the machine is really simple to operate, even for inexperienced users. Uploaded software (Smart Material Manager) can deal with standard drying or storing. Using the spool tags, the software can recognize the filament and order an appropriate drying (or storing) program automatically. The role of the operator is to place a spool in a dedicated spot and wait until the machine informs the spool is ready to print. This results in minimized numbers of human errors (and production downtimes), and reduced wasteful material operating. Advanced users may apply customs settings too.
Apart from easy and effective material drying and preparation, MMS can be used for end-parts annealing. What it is? This is a heat treatment method causing molecular changes – crystallization that results in increased ductility and reduced hardness. This stage of post-processing boosts the strength (by 75%), anti-corrosive, and durability of the printouts, by crystallization. The annealing is frequently used with high-performance filaments to upgrade their chemical and mechanical resistance qualities. We talk about the filaments used for the most demanding industrial applications. 3DGence engineers programmed and configured the MMS software for seamless PAEK annealing, thus AS9100 PEEK, Victrex AM™ 200, CF-PEEK, and other Certified Open Materials and be enhanced in a quick and effective way. The operator pours the printout into a metal container filled with quartz sand and starts the annealing cycle. The machine informs the operator when the process is finished.
Minimal staff involvement and low-effort maintenance are important, however, the idea behind MMS is much deeper. By successfully dealing with moisture obstacles, our clients equipped with MMS and true industrial 3D printers can secure absolute process control. It means that companies using the 3DGence ecosystem (certified filaments, MMS, printers, software) ensure top-quality printouts, repeatability, and traceability. Each filament spool purchased at 3DGence Store is equipped with NFC tag and unique ID. Once unboxed, the polymer is registered in the MMS database and the information is sent to CLOUD software, thus the user can track each step of the process and, moreover, get to know the beginning of the filament production process. All the steps taken in the printing process are gathered in the final report. This kind of process control is crucial in industries where safety plays a key role (e.g., railway, aerospace, or aviation sectors).
Designed by 3DGecnce engineers, Material Management System seems to be a missing link in a 3D printing ecosystem. According to my knowledge, there are very few companies on the market delivering solutions of this kind. By introducing MMS in 2022, 3DGence made a significant step towards full traceability and process control. That’s our answer to the needs of the most demanding sectors, such as aerospace, railway, energy, space, or defense, that require uncompromised quality and reliable printouts. I am glad to say we achieved it along with easy handling and user-friendliness, key features expected by inexperienced users – Mateusz Sidorowicz, Marketing Director at 3DGence.
Additive manufacturing shapes Industry 4.0 thus more and more companies decide to turn to 3D printing direction. Our Material Management System improves 3D printing experience and enables getting the best out FFF technology. At 3DGence, we focus on covering every single aspect of successful printing. That is why we deliver true industrial 3D printers, MMS, dedicated software, and a vast range of filaments. If your organization wants to weigh the pros and cons of making objects out of engineering thermoplastics, analyze the effectiveness of 3D printing, and get to know the 360⁰ approach by 3DGence, do not hesitate to contact our advisor. 3DGence experts are at your service to answer your questions and match the best offer that meets your needs. The best time to talk about additive manufacturing is now!