ThinKing November 2019: It all comes down to the nozzle

28.10.2019

 

10 to 100 times lower material costs for plastic 3d printing.

Manufacturing functional prototypes from plastic can be an expensive business. Additive manufacturing processes are one answer – the only problem is that the 3D printing of larger components is often still far too slow. The young company Q.big 3D GmbH has come up with a solution. The start-up’s large-scale plastic printer operates with various throughputs, which makes it especially economic as it is able to scale the throughput and the “print resolution” to the component geometry. And it processes inexpensive standard granules rather than filaments: from polylactides (PLA) through to high-performance, fiber-reinforced polymers.

The Development Agency for Lightweighting Baden-Württemberg presents this innovation in the November 2019 edition of the ThinKing. Leichtbau BW GmbH uses this label to showcase excellent lightweight technology products or services from Baden-Württemberg every month.

At a glance:
- Economic and efficient production of large-scale components using 3D printing processes
- Material costs lower by a factor of 10 to 100
- Extruder with variable nozzle for fine and bold printing
- Material deposition, throughput and speed according to geometry requirements
- No need for time-consuming surface reworking

We can print real bold”, smiles Katja Schlichting, co-founder of Q.big 3D as she points to the nozzle on the large-scale plastic printer, which really does have an impressive installation space which measures up at 1000 x 500 x 350 mm. The next size (1500 x 1000 x 1000 mm) is already in operation. The printer currently produces 5 kg/h.

The exciting thing about this young company’s printing process, however, is not just the high throughput which Q.big 3D GmbH manages and the sheer size of the installation space. “Ultimately, it all comes down to the nozzle”, explains Katja Schlichting. “We print with high throughput in the inside of the component, where there is a lot of mass. We narrow the nozzle and slow the printing process down for fine structures or on the surface. This produces detailed geometries or a significantly smoother surface. Here layer thickness is only between 0.3 and 1.5 mm.”

The innovative printing process allows the nozzle diameter to be varied during printing so that resolution and throughput can be adapted to the required geometry. A patent application has been filed for the VFGF (Variable Fused Granular Fabrication) printing process. Variability offers numerous advantages. To start with, large-scale components can be printed faster and with improved stability. Secondly, “fine printing” enables more complex geometries, such as overhangs or finely structured surfaces, to be produced. “This demand-oriented combination of resolution and speed is unique”, says Schlichting.

The accelerated printing of large-scale components pays off for the user: With the VFGF process it is possible to manufacture a seven kilogram component with a surface resolution of just 0.5 millimetres in only 15 hours. “A filament 3D printer needs about ten times as long for the same surface resolution,” explains the company’s CTO, Michael Heel.

What is more, the extruder and nozzle can process standard granules and the material costs for the prototypes are consequently 10 to 100 times lower than with a conventional filament printer. Plastic granulate costs between 2.5 €/kg for plastics such as PLA (as filament, approximately 20 €/kg) and 15 €/kg for technical polymers such as PA6-CF30.

“Our printing process accelerates printing and reduces the costs for prototypes so that companies can also benefit from 3D printing of large-scale components”, says Dennis Herrmann, CEO at Q.big 3D. The start-up’s team is currently focusing on developing the printer further and the sale of 3D-printed components.

About Q.Big 3D
The young start-up offers functional prototype construction for the plant, mechanical engineering and automotive industries. The printing process enables large-scale components to be produced especially economically and quickly. This pays off in reduced time-to-market. All three founders, Dennis Herrmann, Katja Schlichting and Michael Heel, graduated from Aalen University.
www.qbig3d.de