3D printing in the industrial sector involves the printing of digital CAD data in three dimensional form. A wide variety of materials are used for this purpose. The material is built up layer by layer using a robot arm with an attached nozzle to create the desired form or the designed product. This technology makes it possible for companies to produce complex forms or prototypes more cheaply.
The flow of the various different materials (e.g. granulates or even protective gases) is controlled by different types of valves.
3D printing in the industrial sector cannot be compared to the three-dimensional printing solutions that are already available for use at home. Industrial 3D printing requires much more complex systems that also place special demands on the installed valves. Industry uses various different types of 3D printing processes and thus covers an increasingly broader range of possible applications.
Thanks to more widespread use of this kind of rapid prototyping, an increasing number of companies are able to produce prototypes, pilot series and complex specially made models both inexpensively and in a short period of time. Companies will also be able to produce small batches or spare parts more efficiently and flexibly as needed in the future. The decisive factor here is that 3D printing does not require the production of injection moulds and the moulds do not need to be changed over – which accounts for a considerable proportion of the total production costs.
In addition, 3D printing allows companies to produce complex forms (e.g. with undercuts or integrated channels and cavities) that were not possible with previous production processes.
The full surface of the final product is produced in layers in some printing processes. The materials used for stabilising the product are then sucked or blown out after curing. This process for removing the excess material is achieved with the aid of AKO pinch valves in some 3D printers.
Contour crafting is a special form of 3D printing. This process is primarily used in the construction industry for the computer-assisted construction of whole buildings.
Similar to the previously described method – only with much larger dimensions – the contours of a digitally designed building are applied layer by layer using a computer-controlled spray nozzle. Pinch valves from AKO Armaturen control, amongst other things, the supply and dosing of the special concrete that is applied via the spray nozzles. The robust and anti-abrasive internal sleeve in the pinch valves guarantees that the valves have a long service life even when using highly abrasive and wearing construction materials. Another advantage of pinch valves for contour crafting is the clog-free design of the valves. The smooth interior of the valve sleeve and the way the opening and closing mechanism changes its surface mean that any deposits and encrustations on the valve are immediately released and removed.
Find out more about the use of pinch valves from the VMP series in contour crafting – the 3D printing of buildings – in this case study.
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