It wasn’t long ago that additive manufacturing (AM) was still trying to find its legs in metal fabrication applications. Slowly, this process is becoming less boutique and more mainstream. And while AM still hasn’t become the norm in small to medium-sized job shops, it’s definitely made some big gains in just a few short years.
AM is finding a new audience in healthcare as device manufacturers join forces with clinicians and additive manufacturers. It’s finding its way into the automotive industry and the aerospace industry, as well. Boeing and Oerlikon, a Zurich-based technology group, recently entered into a five-year agreement for AM development, which is intended to improve their methods of printing metals for the aerospace industry.
Although the AM industry is ramping up and new machines are produced to make more and more types of parts, one reason some manufacturers have been reluctant to adopt the technology is because separating the part from the base material is time consuming and expensive. Fortunately, the sawing industry has stepped up to offer a solution.
For some applications, individual offcuts of components made by AM are required. Essentially, this means that the manufactured part is removed from its base plate after it exits the AM machine.
Traditionally, the use of a wire electrical discharge machine (EDM) has been used to separate the part from the base plate. The process involves using an electrically charged thin wire to make the cut.
However, the new Kasto bandsaw, the Kasto win amc, is giving fabricators a new way to separate the part from the base plate. It is the first bandsaw specifically developed for the AM industry. The amc stands for additive manufacturing cutting. It’s a high-performance automatic bandsaw with an integrated 180-degree turning device and intelligent control system.
Stefan Dolipski, vice president at Kasto Inc., says production of the bandsaw began after the company began receiving more and more inquiries from various users and producers of AM technologies.
“They wanted a solution that made it easy to get the part off the base plate and they wanted it as automated as possible,” Dolipski says.
Therefore, the bandsaw comes standard with automation features, including the SmartControl controller, which operators use to enter the thickness of the base plate. The software in the computer automates the speed and feed of the saw blade. Once the machine has reached its end cut, it automatically shuts off.
Other saw manufacturers have promoted their machines as solutions for working with AM, but according to Greg Winiarz, regional sales manager for Kasto, these manufacturers are repurposing existing machines without modifying them for cutting parts off the base plate or for added safety.
“With the Kasto win amc,” Winiarz says, “the machine is fully enclosed for safety and to collect all the dust particles that are generated when removing the part off the base plate.”
Perhaps one of the most important aspects in the design of the bandsaw is that the part is bolted into the work surface or clamped in place, which allows it to be turned 180 degrees. This allows the part to fall away from the blade and onto a cushioned material, which is either bristles or foam, depending on the weight of the part.
Because the parts are rotated 180 degrees (upside down), blade wear is significantly reduced as fewer chips fall into the cutting channel. Also, this orientation prevents a problem that occurs in traditional AM cutting where the part collides with the blade, which is a costly mistake.
“The main problem you have with horizontal down cuts,” Dolipski says, “is when you cut the parts off the base plate, they can swing around and come back into the blade. All of a sudden, the part that you produced for a lot of money is now damaged.”
AM is rapidly evolving while the risks associated with working with powdered metals are still being assessed. For example, aluminum powder is one of the common materials in this industry, and it’s already known that excess exposure to aluminum causes particles to build up in the body, resulting in health concerns.
Therefore, cutting through the finished product can be a concern as fine particles are generated as the blade cuts through the metal, which is why Kasto built the amc bandsaw to be fully enclosed and outfitted so that the customer’s preferred vacuum/suction system can be attached to the saw near the blade to safely remove particulates and fumes. This means that the machine can be used in automatic mode without the worry of significant dust generation.
“There are more particulates coming out of additive manufacturing cutting,” Dolipski says. “The materials that they use, such as the additives involved in the powdered metals, are a little bit more dangerous to one’s health than standard metal.”
Although the bandsaw is fully enclosed, it also features safety doors that can be opened for loading and unloading the base plates. Operators can observe the cuts through a window in the removal flap.
Kasto built the amc bandsaw with a standard cutting range of 400 mm by 500 mm, however, as AM is still fairly new and print sizes are quickly changing, Kasto is ready to move along with industry needs.