Sawing in 3-D

The additive manufacturing market is heating up and saws play a key role

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The additive manufacturing (AM) market is estimated to reach $74.70 billion by 2030. That estimate would have seemed laughable several years ago when the process was deemed too slow to be useful in manufacturing. The automotive and aerospace industries, however, have clamored to the technology, and AM has also dipped into healthcare, education, robotics and energy, just to name a few more. Ironically, this cutting-edge technology is being paired with a piece of equipment that has been of great service to metal fabricators for more than a century – the bandsaw.

The AM process, which is also referred to as 3-D printing, involves building objects layer by layer upon a base plate (also called a build plate). There are a handful of printing applications being used today, but the development of electron beam melting and selective laser melting have emerged as breakthrough technologies, making AM with metals not only practical, but efficient.

Fabtech, North America’s largest metal forming, fabrication, welding and finishing event, has featured many AM technologies over the years and established the 3D/Additive Manufacturing Pavilion in 2017. Fabtech organizers refer to AM as “one of the fastest-growing technologies of the 21st century.” At Fabtech 2023 in Chicago, more than 60 companies were listed under the AM category.

Kasto introduced a saw specifically for additive manufacturing. The KastoWin amc bandsaw cleanly separates parts from the base plate in a position that doesn’t allow the falling part to become damaged.

Better with bandsaws

When the AM process is completed and the part is finished, the object, whether it’s a part that goes on a spaceship or a part that goes in a pressure gauge used in the energy sector, it needs to be separated from the build plate, which is where the bandsaw comes into play. Through the use of a horizontal or vertical bandsaw, manufacturers can achieve precision cutting, removing excess materials and separating the printed parts from the base. Blades can be chosen depending on the type of metal being cut, as manufacturers today are utilizing titanium, Inconel, stainless steel, aluminum and cobalt chrome among others in AM. With the right saw and the right blade, the part can be removed quickly and retain its surface quality.

Arjun Patel, marketing specialist at Cosen Saws, says that while bandsaws seem like a relatively traditional tool compared to cutting-edge 3-D printing technologies, their role is crucial in separating parts from the base.

Additive manufacturing process can produce dangerous gases, but Kasto’s solution for separating the printed parts from the build plate also keeps the gases contained.

“One of the key advantages of bandsaws in AM is their ability to provide precise and clean cuts,” he says. “After a part is 3-D printed, it often needs to be separated from the build platform or support structures. Bandsaws, with their fine blades and adjustable settings, offer a level of precision that is essential for maintaining the integrity of the printed part.”

Patel notes that AM encompasses a wide range of materials, but because bandsaws are versatile tools, they’re suitable for the diverse range of materials used in AM.

“Bandsaws contribute to the overall efficiency of the AM process,” he says. “They enable faster separation of parts from the base, reducing the time required for post-processing. The cut quality provided by bandsaws contributes to achieving a smoother surface finish on the separated parts. They also play a role in ensuring that post-processed parts meet the desired surface finish standards.”

Adding solutions

Stefan Dolipski, vice president of Kasto, says in the early days of AM, the produced part had to be removed from the build plate via electrical discharge machining, which is also known as wire burning or wire erosion, and with the manual operation of saws.

“Most of the saws that would allow for access and the ability to clamp onto the part were rather low tech without much of a speed and feed selection based on material,” Dolipski says.

In most cases, he says, manufacturers had no band deviation setup, which monitors the cut for straightness. And on many saw models, the clamping and setup would allow parts to fall over onto each other, resulting in damages.

Get an inside look at a saw made for additive manufacturing with this video.

“This led to the hesitation from high-tech companies that employ AM to use saws to remove the parts off the build plate,” he says.

Seeing the need in the market, Kasto developed the KastoWin amc bandsaw, which stands for additive manufacturing cutting. Dolipski refers to the situation as an “open door for a saw that checked all the boxes” of the additive manufacturer’s needs. This includes an automatic rotation table that allows for the precise placement of the build plate on a flat surface. Once the plate is loaded, the machine automatically rotates the fixated build plate upside down. The operator also has a failproof option for speed and feed rates, as the control on the machine allows for the selection of material type.

“It has all the required components to supervise the cutting process,” Dolipski says. “The pieces that are cut off will fall out of harm’s way of the blade and into a soft, customizable containment.”

Click on the video to learn more about Cosen Saws’ equipment and the company’s operations.

As AM has grown, so too have the concerns about the toxicity of metal powders and molten metal fumes. While health risks are a real concern, so too are the fines for failing to eliminate fumes that can lead to fire and explosion. Kasto also has this covered, literally.

“The machine is fully enclosed to allow for the removal of poison gases that can be entrapped in the builds,” Dolipski says. 

The technology will no doubt continue to evolve and progress, and there are even hybrid technologies pairing CNC machining with AM making the rounds today. Through all the complexities and various advancements happening now and into the future, it’s comforting to know the tried-and-true bandsaw still has a place in the shop.


Cosen Saws

Kasto

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