Date Visited: 26 October 1995 JTEC/WTEC Attendees: B. Kramer (report author), J. Beaman, R. Brown
Dr. Frank Petzoldt, Director, Powder Technology Department
Dr. Theo Pintat, Director, Rapid Prototyping Group
Matthias Greul, Rapid Prototyping Group
Michael Greulich, Rapid Prototyping Group
(See the ICT site report for a brief general introduction to the Fraunhofer Institutes and the Fraunhofer Rapid Prototyping Network.)
The Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Materials Research (IFAM) employs 220 people at three locations (two near Bremen and one in Dresden). The IFAM has extensive research programs in near net shape processes, particularly powder processing, and in adhesive bonding. The goal of the programs is the optimization of parts design and manufacturing processes.
Researchers at the IFAM started developing plans for a rapid prototyping research program in 1991. In 1992, they bought a fused deposition modeling (FDM) unit from Stratasys and began a research and development program aimed at perfecting methods for producing technical prototypes and preproduction parts by rapid prototyping techniques.
IFAM has a mission to serve industry worldwide. In rapid prototyping, this mission extends to developing application-oriented solutions to industry problems, systems integration for industry, and education and training of industry personnel.
IFAM is currently working on four rapid prototyping processes:
Research includes development of techniques to create FDM substrates for electroforming injection molding inserts. The substrates are coated with carbon to provide conductivity, and the electroformed nickel layers are approximately 3 mm thick. Electroforming is preferred to plasma spray deposition of metal, since the electrodeposition process is a low-temperature, low-stress process that does not damage the substrate pattern.
The metal prototypes are infiltrated with PbAg2Sn2 alloy with a melting point of 315°C, which increases part strength by approximately 30%. Polymer injection molds made from infiltrated metal prototypes have been used to injection-mold ABS and glass-filled nylon, with a mold life in excess of 300 parts. Development is underway to find infiltrants that are lead-free.
In cooperation with Deutsche Telekom, IFAM has is an interesting program underway to implement teleprototyping via communications networks. It is an element of the joint Fraunhofer Rapid Prototyping Network project. The current demonstration is for the rapid prototyping of custom medical implants. It links an implant manufacturer, an investment casting company, a medical clinic, and IFAM. It is a demonstration project only, but it has shown the feasibility of producing a custom investment cast implant in two weeks.
IFAM also has good facilities for reverse engineering using 3D digitizing to create solid models, and world-class facilities for materials characterization. The JTEC/WTEC team also saw rapid prototypes that had been used to visualize part designs optimized for stress using "biological algorithms."
The research group at IFAM displays an interesting mixture of expertise in materials and process development that can be applied to rapid prototyping. IFAM's emphasis is on the development, in cooperation with industry, of processes that can be used by industry.
EARP. 1995. "Prototype moulds by using FDM and electroplating." European Action on Rapid Prototyping (EARP) Newsletter (special ed.: RPT for casting and tooling), no. 6 (July).
Fraunhofer Gesellschaft. 1995. Rapid Prototyping: Rapid Prototyping Network.
Fraunhofer IFAM. N.d. Metal Powder Technology.
Fraunhofer IFAM. N.d. From Powder to Components; Powder Metallurgy; Powder Technology. (IFAM brochure).