One-of-a-kind Solukon depowdering machine lands at CDME

Posted: June 21, 2023
student unloading depowdering machine
Landon Muhlenkamp, CDME undergraduate student, loading machine

The Ohio State University’s Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) recently partnered with Solukon Maschinenbau GmbH to give students experiential learning in additive manufacturing with a state-of-the-art depowdering machine.

After a part is printed in a powder-based metal 3D printing machine, the excess powder material must be removed from its crevices and cavities before the part is ready for use. Depowdering is typically done manually, but can be very time-consuming, difficult and potentially hazardous due to exposure to fine powder dust.

As a leader in the development of depowdering systems for metal and polymer additive manufacturing, Solukon placed the SFM-AT800-S at CDME for post-processing and depowdering in additive manufacturing. CDME received the SFM-AT800-S refurbished from another Solukon partner, who switched to a larger Solukon machine.

Using the Solukon system not only makes the depowdering process faster, repeatable and more convenient, but it also ensures health and safety requirements are met, including occupational safety and explosion protection. Powder recovery and reuse is also possible because the unused powder is collected contamination-free in a sealed chamber of the machine.

The SFM-AT800-S removes powder residue from metal parts within a sealed process chamber using targeted vibrations. The machine uses endless rotations along two axes that are automated and programmable and can depowder machine parts with heights up to 600 mm.

“A machine like this takes the headache out of depowdering parts in metal additive manufacturing,” said Michael Lander, CDME additive research engineer. “I used to use mallets and make-shift apparatuses to beat the powder out of the parts, but still could not remove it all. Now, I simply load a plate of complex parts, press go and come back to parts ready to go.”

3 people standing in front of depowdering machine
L-R: John Middendorf, director of additive manufacturing; Michael Lander, additive research engineer; and Ben DiMarco, additive principal engineer

Having a depowdering machine on site is not common in academic research facilities, so in addition to its use in research and company-sponsored projects, students are gaining access to innovative technology usually only found in industry. Integrating partnerships, like the one with Solukon, into the center’s capabilities allows students to learn industrial technology before entering the workforce. This supports CDME’s mission to give student employees hands-on experience integrating new technologies and working on industry projects before graduation.

"Using this machine allows for safe and easy depowdering of 3D printed parts. By putting the user in control, we can set the parameters necessary for reducing the number of risks and increasing the efficiency of depowdering,” said Landon Muhlenkamp, an undergraduate student assistant at CDME. “Solukon's software, which calculates the ideal motion sequence for depowdering automatically, is easy to use, allowing me to feel in control at every step of the process."

CDME’s additive manufacturing division houses more than $8 million in additive manufacturing equipment, including industrial 3D printers capable of processing metals, polymers, composites, biomaterials and ceramics. With the arrival of this innovative machine at CDME, Solukon and its affiliates have unlimited access to it.

“We also want to fulfill our role as pioneer and market leader of automated powder removal in the university context,” said Michael Sattler, Solukon global sales director. “By partnering with CDME, we are creating early awareness of the importance of automated depowdering among the next generation of additive manufacturing professionals.”

Category: Research