Vermont's A3DM Technologies and GPA Innova Advancing Processing of Metal 3D Printed Parts
Monday, February 25, 2019
Posted by: Jeff Couture
Vermont-based A3DM Technologies, which has long contributed to multiple commercial 3D printing production processes, and GPA Innova, founded in 2015 in Barcelona, recently entered into a collaborative research and development agreement in order to further advance post-processing of metal 3D printed parts. The two companies will accomplish this using an award-winning dry electropolishing surface treatment process called DLyte, for Dry Electrolyte.
“We are a small research firm with 25 years of system and material contribution to major AM brands,” A3DM’s Steven Adler told 3DPrint.com. “We develop next generation metal additive materials and processes for industry, academia, and government agencies.”
A3DM was founded back in 1996, and in addition to its new agreement with GPA Innova, the company is also focused on using induction plasma to synthesize spherical micron and nano metal powders for multiple technology applications, in addition to developing optimized laser plotting and other parameters for powder bed fusion 3D printers.
“A3DM Technologies brings decades of expertise in the development of process improvements for Additive Manufacturing,” said GPA Innova’s Patrick Sage. “We believe they will be instrumental in the advancement DLyte ‘Dry’ Electro-Polishing in this growing production application.”
GPA Innova created the patented DLyte process, which specifically targets surface roughness uniformly, while also sustaining small feature details and dimensional accuracy of metal 3D printed parts. The technology firm specializes in designing and manufacturing metal surface finishing machinery, and was originally founded in order to provide product design and process development solutions for industrial applications.
So, just what makes the DLyte process so special? We asked Adler to explain how it works, and he said that it can be considered a “disruptive engineering technology in electrolyte finishing” for several reasons.
“Electrolytic processes are sometimes termed ‘electro-polishing’,” he explained to us.
“Typical electrolytic systems are liquids which later become a hazardous waste product when exhausted …. To date there has never been a “Dry” method, which being environmentally friendly is a distinct advantage.
“Typical electrolytic systems polish unevenly based ion transfer of the item shape – corners and crevices are problematic. DLyte smooths evenly with the aid of solid body assisted ion transfer.”
DLyte is a unique, one-step automated process that grinds and polishes metal 3D printed parts using ion transport with free solid bodies, without using a liquid electrolyte. 3D printed parts made out of metals such as aluminum, cobalt chrome, nickel alloys, precious metals, steel and stainless steel, and titanium can all be used with the DLyte process in multiple industries, such as aerospace, automotive, dental, healthcare, and luxury.
We asked Adler why DLyte is different from other surface finishing or post-processing methods, like HIP or tumbling.
“HIP is a metal heat treatment that compresses internal structures,” Adler told 3DPrint.com.
“Tumbling is a mechanical process that erodes.”
According to the website, DLyte differs from traditional polishing in that it can not only preserve the initial shapes, but also penetrate into all of a part’s dead zones. Without having to rely on grinding patterns, the process creates a homogeneous polish across the surface, and can process complex geometries without leaving any micro-scratches on the surface.
The main benefits of using DLyte include:
- controlled costs and predictable lead times
- increases resistance to corrosion
- traceable industrial process
- leaves no trace of hydrogen on surface
- easy to process channels and cavities
“A3DM Technologies recognizes Dlyte as a truly disruptive technology for additively manufactured metal parts,” Adler said. “The unique ion transport process has the potential for high productivity with a significant reduction in our environmental impact over traditional electolytic processes.”
As part of its agreement with GPA Innova, A3DM Technologies will be working to develop optimized processing parameters for the DLyte process, specifically for metal alloys that are used in powder-based 3D printing processes.