From concept to component


Matsuura Machinery’s recent additive manufacturing event showcased how the journey from concept to component is today easier than ever before. Contributing Editor Steed Webzell called by to see the action.

For those who may not be aware, Matsuura Machinery complements its long-standing expertise in conventional subtractive machining by acting as a UK reseller for a select number of advanced additive manufacturing (AM) brands, including HP and its acclaimed MJF (Multi Jet Fusion) 3D-printing technology. Indeed, Matsuura has invested around £2 million in its new Additive Manufacturing Centre in Leicestershire, which not only serves as a showroom, but as a fully functional technical centre.

Highlighting its success to date, Matsuura Machinery gained the title of HP reseller of the year 2022 for the UK and the whole of Europe. Every HP MJF end user in the UK, with over 70 machines installed, is a Matsuura customer. The rapidly expanding client list includes Printing Portal, Amufacture, All 3D Labs, Incremental Engineering and Midlands 3D Printing, to name but a few.

Number cruncher

Among many machines in situ is the HP Jet Fusion 5200, the company’s most advanced 3D-printing solution for volume production. According to Peter Harris, Matsuura Additive Manufacturing Manager, the HP Jet Fusion 5200 has more than halved the price of 3D-printed builds, from around £750 for a part produced by the previous-generation machine, to just £300. Build times on the Jet Fusion 5200 are typically around 12 hours.

“HP MJF technology is comparable to SLS-based systems for 1-2 large parts, but up to 10 times faster for 1000 components,” he stated at the event.

Although many materials are available for the Jet Fusion 5200, around 90% of sales involve PA12, not just because of its economic price and high reusability, but its toughness, tensile strength, impact strength and ability to flex without fracture. Those who require parts made from aesthetically pleasing white materials, can take advantage of another model in the same series: the HP Jet Fusion 5420W.

A further machine present in the Coalville facility is the HP Jet Fusion 5200 3D Processing Station for parts coming off 5200-series production machines.

Highly controlled dust extraction means that removing 3D-printed parts from the build unit is both quick and safe using the powerful vacuum. Operatives require nothing more than a pair of protective gloves, while the sieving and recycling of any leftover powder ensures very little process waste.

The finishing touches

Matsuura Machinery is also a UK distributor for DyeMansion, a specialist in finishing solutions for polymer AM parts. With over 100 machines installed in the UK, a trio of DyeMansion models are on display at Matsuura’s facility: the Powershot C for automated de-powdering and cleaning in 10 minutes or less; the Powershot S, where a 10-15 minute cycle time can deliver premium-look surface quality; and Powerfuse S, which performs chemical vapour smoothing/polishing under vacuum to enhance surface finish beyond mere aesthetics – perhaps where printed parts must be water-tight, for example.

Furthermore, DyeMansion offers DeepDye colouring technology, adding product value by turning 3D-printed polymer parts almost any colour.

Over half of Matsuura’s HP customers in the UK also use DyeMansion solutions, indicating the added value available from these innovative machines. The story is similar with another technical partner, Materialise, a provider of completely agnostic AM software. Every Matsuura UK customer that is utilising HP technology is also taking advantage of Materialise Magics to gain efficiency.

The heat is on

Where customers need 3D-printed polymer parts with high temperature and chemical resistance, Matsuura recommends the FFF (fused filament fabrication) technology of Roboze machines, two of which are present in the AM Centre.

“With its chamber heated to 160°C, a machine such as the Roboze ARGO 500 can produce 3D-printed parts from a choice of 17 materials, including a proprietary Roboze material called Carbon PEEK for applications in sectors such as aerospace and defence where ultra-high stiffness and heat resistance is required,” said Mr Harris. “We’ve just delivered our first Roboze machine to a UK customer.”

Visitors to the event could also see the Roboze Plus PRO in action, a compact machine with a 300 × 250 × 220mm build volume that features a heated bed rather than a heated chamber. Notably, nozzle size is down to 0.25mm for producing layers as thin as 100µm.

Pedal to the metal

So what of metal 3D-printing solutions? Well, here too, Matsuura has solutions available for customers to see in action.

The Desktop Metal Studio System, for example, is a benchtop machine which, unlike laser-based systems that selectively melt metal powder, extrudes bound metal rods, similar to how an FDM printer works. Using materials that include stainless steel 316 and 17-4, copper, titanium, and D2 tool steel, it is a highly cost-effective alternative to low-volume castings. Matsuura installed its first UK machine in 2022.

Also in place at Matsuura Machinery is the Desktop Metal Shop System, said to be the world’s first metal binder jetting system designed to bring metal 3D printing to machine shops. The advanced print-head features over 70,000 nozzles jetting 1.2pL droplets at nearly 10 kHZ to achieve high-resolution, 3D-printed parts at a fraction of the cost of laser-based systems.

Desktop Metal even offers the Shop System Forust Edition, the world’s first commercially available 3D-printing system to process upcycled sawdust into functional, end-use wooden parts using high-speed binder jetting technology.

As a point of note, Matsuura of course still offers its own LUMEX additive and subtractive platform for metals.

 The road ahead

Looking to the near future, Matsuura Machinery houses an ETEC Xtreme 8K, which uses DLP (direct light processing) to print thousands of polymer parts per day. Described by Mr Harris as “a potential game-changer”, the machine will have its official UK launch in June.

Said Mr Harris: “AM parts are advancing so fast: we recently produced a component for a subsea application at 20 bar pressure, replacing seven stainless steel fabrications. Furthermore, AM is no longer just for prototyping. Around half of our customer projects involve parts for end-use products.”

To help spread the word about AM and its capabilities, Matsuura Machinery will shortly begin offering ‘experience days’, allowing teams of people from potential new customers to get up close to the machines and print parts. Applications engineers from Matsuura Machinery will be on hand to help maximise value from the day. The only thing that participants need to bring is their imagination.

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