Of the countless stands at the K-Fair Dusseldorf few relied on additive manufacturing as the speed is not competitive with conventional mass production. However; one stand stood out from the others as they combined additive manufacturing (3D printing) and conventional subtractive manufacturing (milling) in the one cell. The team behind this development is from the Institut für Kunststoffverarbeitung Aachen. The key to this production relies on a hybrid robotic arm with interchangeable tools. The initial tool is an extruder, similar to those producing the filaments for FDM printers fed on pellets from an infinitly larger library than the conventional PLA or ABS options. The robotic arm then switches to milling and polishing tools to finish the surface producing finer and more accurate models than many other printing means. However, the technology has its shortcomings. By needing to subtract material at the end; the shapes of the prints are then restricted by the limits of the milling tools. Nonetheless the technology is fascinating and can easily find a place in the future due to the endless material options of the single machine.
Written by: Stuart Buddle