AM Cube: A real all-rounder

The CHIRON Group's AM Cube is not just a 3D metal printer but a real all-rounder. For example, it can be used for applying coatings or repairing components, as well as near-net-shape manufacturing of semi-finished products. The AM Cube produces the best surface quality and high deposition volumes in a single process and uses extensive expertise in machining centers as the basis for a new patent-pending technology. Axel Boi, Head of Additive Manufacturing explains what makes this printer is so special and allows it to perform a wide range of tasks.

Mr. Boi, let's get straight to the point, why has the CHIRON Group developed a 3D metal printer?
The CHIRON Group offers its customers complete solutions from a single source. Not just machining centers, automation, or – as is the case with other providers – 3D metal printers. We believe that additive processes perfectly complement the Group's subtractive ones. We do concentrate on material removal but our customers also benefit from the extensive expertise we've built up in metalworking and machining centers for deposition applications. It therefore makes absolute sense for us to add 3D metal printing to our range.

What exactly is the AM Cube suitable for – how does it deliver on its promise of being a real all-rounder?
3D printing is used for small quantities, which means that the system must be flexible. The AM Cube is designed to manufacture larger components with high material prices or long procurement times and is therefore suitable for use in mechanical engineering, tool manufacturing, energy production and the aerospace industry. What makes it unique and very different from other 3D printers is the option to change the deposition head while a process is ongoing. The AM Cube can achieve an excellent result if you need a high deposition volume and good surface finish for a large, complex workpiece.

What you need to know about the AM Cube in three minutes, 27 seconds:

So, the AM Cube means that you can combine 3D printing and coating application? Are other combinations possible?
Yes, since the AM Cube has three deposition heads, you can be completely flexible. It's possible to apply coatings both internally and externally. You can also change the material with each deposition head. In one phase of production, the laser metal deposition is wired-based, while the other phase is powder-based. While this may sound like a simple change, it was extremely challenging to develop. That's why we've applied for a patent for this technology. This means that our customers can be sure that they're getting the AM Cube which offers an original CHIRON Group process.

 Deposition head for internal coating, two other heads are in the park position.
Deposition head for internal coating, two other heads are in the park position.

Laser metal deposition
In laser metal deposition, a laser beam melts a substrate and this substrate is metallurgically bonded to the feedstock material. One of the benefits of this process is that it results in lower thermal loading – it's also excellent for repairing damage, reinforcing components at selected points and restoring the original geometry of components by means of material deposition.

When should you use wire or powder as the deposited material?
Powder is excellent for applying coatings, particularly for thin or graduated layers.  Powder is the only option for internal coatings. On the other hand, some advantages of using wire are that 100% of the feedstock material enters the material structure and the process enables high deposition rates.

You mentioned the fact that the Group's experience in metalworking influenced how the system was developed. Which elements of machining centers can be found in the AM Cube? Is the 3D metal printer really a »genuine CHIRON« product?
The AM Cube is designed using a Cartesian coordinate system, just like a conventional machining center. It is programmed either using a standardized DIN ISO code or, for complex components, using a CAD/CAM software tool from the Siemens NX toolkit. All aspects of the system can be controlled using tried-and-tested Siemens components, from hardware to programming of the AM Cube. The AM Cube is also designed as a platform and can be reconfigured from three-axis machining to four- or five-axis machining with relatively little effort.

One last question, what about production and operator safety?
We have to distinguish between laser safety and occupational safety. To ensure laser safety, the AM Cube is equipped with a state-of-the-art sensor system and meets all the important safety requirements without needing to be constantly manned. If you use powder as the feedstock material, the entire working area is filtered by suction to prevent operators from being exposed to airborne powder particles.

The highlights at a glance

Flexible

  • Coating
  • Repairs
  • 3D printing

Modular

  • Three-axis
  • Four-axis
  • Five-axis

Automatic deposition head changing

  • Wire or powder feedstock material
  • 3D printing or coating
  • Internal and external coating

Easy-to-use

  • Innovative user interface with TouchLine
  • Well-known Siemens control system components
  • Programming in DIN ISO or CAM
  • Cartesian coordinate system

Want to find out more about the AM Cube and its many talents? Or are you interested in AM Coating, a system for coating brake discs?

Visit the CHIRON Group Website for more details.

Or speak directly to Axel Boi, Head of Additive Manufacturing.

Axel Boi
Tel. +49 7461 940-3871
axel.boi@chiron-group.com