Photo: Lab assistant Kevin / Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA

Kevin at Motek with Us

Kevin is a laboratory assistant developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for the performance of simple tasks in the lab. cirp GmbH will bring Kevin to Motek, where he’ll transport a plate with several reagents from one device to the next. Complete production and assembly of all cladding components for the first prototype was handled by cirp: the housing consists of SLA components (selective laser sintering) that have been ground, painted and assembled. This is just one of the many highlights cirp will bring to Stuttgart.

3D printing has already penetrated numerous production processes. Please give us a few examples that illustrate the advantages of 3D printing.

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, holds the potential to significantly shorten development times thanks to overnight parts production, reduce warehousing costs to a minimum by means of on-demand production and make products viable that have simply been technically unfeasible in the past. Additive manufacturing, in particular the laser sintering process, makes unprecedented elements possible for product design thanks to absolute freedom in design engineering such as bionic structures, undercuts and overhangs, lightweight structures and much more.

Which industry sectors benefit most from 3D printing technology?

In particular the automotive industry benefits not only from reduced costs and time savings in product development, but also from newly gained opportunities for mass customisation. Individually manufactured mass products are stimulating the automotive market where the auto interior is concerned. But other fields as well such as (special) machine manufacturing, medical technology, the toys industry, automation and assembly technology and even replacement parts business are benefitting from the advantages of additive manufacturing. Key examples include one-off manufacturing, customised products, production of components that are no longer available with the help of reverse engineering etc. – and the list could be continued indefinitely.

Which technological obstacles will have to be overcome during further development of 3D printing?

Since its emergence in the 1980s, additive manufacturing has been subject to constant change. It all started with stereolithography, from which other technologies such as selective laser sintering, the polyjet process and the well-known FDM process have evolved over time. The goal of the additive manufacturing sector is to do justice to pressure from the market to produce components even faster. The developers are coming up against physical limits in this respect, which have to be overcome. The range of materials has also expanded significantly in the past. I’m confident that the customer’s desire to quickly obtain components which are very close to injection-moulded parts will be fulfilled in the future.

Which specific target group is your company approaching?

I wouldn’t say that cirp GmbH wants to address a specific target group. For 27 years now, we’ve been synonymous with reliability, quality and customer service. This applies to large corporations as well as to private individuals, whom we support with our expertise in the plastics sector and with our network. Our goal is to make our customers feel that they’re in good hands with us.

Which trade fair highlight will you present at the “3D Special Show” during Motek/Bondexpo 2021 in Stuttgart?

We’ll be exhibiting an additively manufactured expansion head with integrated bellows for expanding contact lens blisters. The transfer process is performed by a delta robot. In particular the PA2200 SLS material makes it possible to produce thin-walled structures which are sufficiently elastic to compensate for expansion head motion. It’s a custom-made product.

Kevin the robot will also be joining us. Kevin is a laboratory assistant for the performance of simple tasks, and for loading laboratory equipment. Amongst other things, the laboratory robot will transport a plate with several reagents from one device to the next. Kevin was developed by the Fraunhofer Institute – for continuous operation on weekends, public holidays and at night as well. Complete production and assembly of all cladding components for the first prototype was handled by cirp. The housing consists of SLA components that have been ground, painted and assembled. The bumpers at the bottom are made of a soft material by means of vacuum casting.

And we’ll present another highlight from the “series mechanical component for a designer lamp” project, namely an additively manufactured bearing cross: “purmundus” is a registered cirp design brand which offers an innovative portfolio of 3D-printed table and floor lamps. The bearing cross is the technical centrepiece in the base of the designer lamp and serves as a pressure mechanism for the on/off switch, and as a mounting for the carbon fibre rod and the PCB holder.

A bistable, kinetic sls lampshade will also appear at trade fair. The kinetic sls floor lamp invites interaction. A second, moving layer of translucent leaves is nestled around its perforated core in order to accommodate the special light structure. Simply pulling on two opposite leaf tips opens the shade and clears the way for the light to create a futuristic shadow play. And thus the kinetic sls combines multifaceted light nuances with an innovative technical principle.

And finally, a protective cover for an industrial smartwatch will also be exhibited: startup company aucobo from Stuttgart offers cutting-edge, human-oriented, smart wearable solutions for industrial shop floor management. Automated, intelligent information distribution permits significantly more effective collaboration thanks to new types of networking between humans and machines, and ensures comprehensive digitalisation in production and logistics. Summarised information is transmitted directly to the user’s wrist via the smartwatch. A protective cover should reliably protect the terminal device from damage and contamination in production environments. As a project partner, cirp supports the company in producing the cover with its complete service package ranging from 3D digitalisation and conceptualisation, as well as material and technology selection, right on up to the finished product. The first prototype was made of TPU by means of 3D printing. The series component is currently being manufactured using a skin-compatible material in an injection moulding process.

Michael Ray, M. Sc. – Division Manager, Additive Technologies and Design Engineering (photo: cirp)