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Volume production of AM plastic components for the automobile industry

As one of the first customers, OECHSLER, globally probably the largest volume manufacturers of 3D printed plastic components, has purchased the post processing system S1 from AM Solutions – 3D post processing technology. The automated S1 will assist the company to fulfill the stringent requirements for quality, repeatability of processing results, traceability and cost efficiency that must be met in the automotive industry.

OECHSLER corporation, located in Ansbach, Germany, is a global leader in the production of plastic components. The company has been working with additive manufacturing since 2017, and in the meantime has become one of the world’s largest manufacturers in of 3D printed plastic components. In close cooperation with leading manufacturers of 3D printers and suitable material suppliers OECHSLER has been actively pursuing the volume production of 3D printed components for industries like automotive, household and commercial products and sporting goods. Matthias Weißkopf, Senior Vice President Global Product & Technology Development at OECHSLER,
explains: “Post processing poses a huge challenge in the field of additive manufacturing. For a long time this aspect of the process chain has been somewhat neglected. But post processing is a key factor for the cost efficiency and quality of products produced with additive manufacturing. In this respect an important task is the development and precise definition of automatic post processing procedures.” “OECHLSER's experience in series production and the associated post processing requirements again helped us fine-tune the machine development," adds Manuel Laux, Head of AM Solutions -  3D post processing technology.

Repeatability – a critical yardstick
The company was facing exactly this challenge with an innovative product for a leading German automobile manufacturer. This product, with a so-called lattice (crisscross) structure is printed from a newly developed material.
To produce the product in volume, the company had to find an automated post processing solution that among other requirements meets the demands of the automobile industry for high-quality, consistent processing results.
Matthias Weißkopf continues: „Our company had already a long-term relationship with Rösler. When our cooperation partner HP referred us to AM Solutions – 3D post processing technology, we took the opportunity to not only take a look at this new Rösler division, but also study its S1 post processing solution in great detail. After intensive discussions and many test trials with equipment suppliers offering post processing solutions for 3D printed components, we chose AM Solutions as our partner.” The “plug and play” S1 shot blast machine was specifically designed for post processing of 3D printed plastic components. This machine allows the automatic processing of entire work piece batches in a rotary basket.

Flexibility and process safety – important post processing aspects OECHSLER decided to purchase the S1, because it offers a high degree of flexibility for the shot blasting process and allows treating all kinds of different materials like PA, PP and TPU. The machine can be easily switched from automatic to manual operation without the need for time consuming re- tooling as required with other post processing shot blast systems. In addition, the S1 offers other valuable technical features like the anti- static polyurethane lining of the inside of the blast chamber and the rotary basket and the ATEX compliant motors and valves. Another major factor was the ergonomic loading and unloading of the work piece batches. During this operation the rotary basket remains completely within the blast chamber so that no contaminants like loose powder can spill to the floor.
Other significant technical properties were the automatic control and storage of the process parameters and the integrated blast media classification. Matthias Weißkopf continues: “These standard features are essential to meet the requirements of the automobile industry and other industrial sectors for process safety, cost-efficiency and repeatability of the processing results. They are indispensable for transforming additive manufacturing into a technology for volume production.”

Quick results through constructive and open cooperation The project teams of the two companies jointly developed custom-engineered solutions for the specific OECHSLER process requirements. The open and constructive atmosphere between the two companies was a big factor for achieving the desired positive results within a surprisingly short time span. It allowed commissioning the S1 machine at OECHSLER by the end of August 2020. Matthias Weißkopf finally remarks: “With AM Solutions – 3D post processing technology we found a partner, who jointly with us developed an optimal solution that meets our special requirements 100%. We feel that this partnership offers a big potential for future developments in the field of additive manufacturing.”

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