Use case at a glance
For only a few people outside Germany, “Sauerland” is a well-known name. Many a winter sports enthusiasts are bound to be familiar with the Winterberg ski arena or the Skip jumping cauldron in Willingen from international sports competitions. But most of them don’t know, the low mountain region is home to a true spirit of innovation in German mechanical engineering, which knows and uses today's possibilities of powder-based 3D printing like no other.
"As passionate engineers, we were involved in the first SLS machines from the very beginning and explored the possibilities and challenges of additive manufacturing in the 1990s with great enthusiasm," says Michael Hümmeler, managing director of LMD GmbH. "We were able to overcome the challenges of powder-based 3D printing with our own mechanical engineering knowledge and understanding of materials. However, this did not immediately open up the possibilities for our own business opportunities. We learned to leave behind what we had learned and started thinking infinitely to create new designs."
Today, Sauerland-based LMD INNOVATION is the leading supplier of industrial grippers for automated production lines. Their expertise in modern mechanical engineering is unrivaled. Their 3D printed product solutions are another great example of German engineering.
CHALLENGE: SHORT-CYCLE ENGINEERING DESIGNS FOR FOOD CONTACT MASCHINES
The challenges to mechanical engineering and design for food production are extreme: In the critical area of food contact, mechanical engineering parts used like grippers must be FDA compliant. In addition, they must be able to withstand the usual mechanical stresses of thousand of working cycles while staying resistant to various substances like oils, fast or acids. Added to this are relatively short production cycles, as packaging or the food gram size change according to customer demand or price promotions. High-performance materials that meet high manufacturing flexibility with excellent material properties are required.
PA12 POWDERS FOR INDUSTRIAL 3D PRINTING
A high-performance thermoplastic, Evonik’s PA12 powder is specially designed to be used for additive manufacturing (3D printing) processes such as selective laser sintering (SLS), high-speed sintering (HSS), and multi-jet fusion (MJF). These polyamide-12 based powders have excellent material properties sought after by demanding end-users, including excellent powder flow, high impact strength, and great surface finish.
"Polyamide 12 is the gold standard in powder-based 3D printing. Not only have we been able to use SLS technology virtually since its birth, but we also know how to handle PA12, as it was one of the first materials on 3D printing machines almost thirty years ago that was easy-to-process into dense functional parts and had all the other material properties," Michael continues.
RESULT: INNOVATIVE 3D PRINTED GRIPPERS IN HYGIENIC DESIGN
LMD INNOVATION designs and produces industrial grippers for automated production lines. The Sauerland-based company specializes in grippers for the food industry. "Because of short product cycles, 3D printing can play to its strengths here," says Michael. 3D printing makes it possible to economically adapt new products to existing production lines by digitally adapting the grippers to the respective food products within a few days, producing them without tools and inserting them into production. "These highly complex small batches cannot be produced economically with any other manufacturing technology.”
Looking ahead, Michael is strengthening his collaboration with mechanical engineering designers to open up new possibilities in 3D printing for food production. “Today, food is produced for the realities of production line capabilities. I hope, thanks to our competences we can change the overall mindset in mechanical engineering to design and build production lines adapted to food qualities in the future.”
As for Evonik, the company is excited about the infinite possibilities of additive manufacturing and is focused heavily on developing more products for this innovative field as part of its long-term growth strategy.
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