Metal AM powders, such as titanium, aluminium and Inconel are used to produce parts for F1 cars and to ensure their quality, the powder is qualified before use and, when the build process is complete, unused powder is reclaimed and requalified.

Metal Additive Manufacturing Powder Recovery Equipment

Contributed by | Russell Finex

Progressive Technology manufactures high-end componentry for Formula One racing teams. The company is a market leader in CNC multi axis machining and uses additive manufacturing technology to manufacture complex metallic components.

metal powder handling system

Progressive Technology has trebled its turnover in the last four years and now services most of the teams on the F1 grid. Its use of advanced technology and 24/7 working allows rapid turnaround of parts. This is reflected in its additive manufacturing (AM) facility, where Progressive Technology has invested in the latest AM print technology to ensure quality and reduce lead times.

The Laser Powder Bed Fusion AM print technology adopted by Progressive Technology provides significant advantages for F1 component manufacturing. As well as reducing R&D lead times, the AM print technology enables Progressive Technology to manufacture components that are lighter and stronger.

The handling of the powders used to produce the parts is critical to the AM process. Metal AM powders, such as titanium, aluminium and Inconel are used to produce parts for F1 cars and to ensure their quality, the powder is qualified before use and, when the build process is complete, unused powder is reclaimed and requalified.

Dave Cooper, Head of Additive Manufacturing Technologies at Progressive Technology Ltd., explained, “The quality of the powder is crucial as it dictates the material properties and is the only way to guarantee a high-quality product.”

Progressive Technology relies upon the Russell AMPro Sieve Station™ (AMPro) as an automated system to AM material handling. Powder qualification had been a time consuming and wasteful process, but the introduction of the Russell AMPro technology has allowed Progressive Technology to optimize its production process.

With AM print processing taking as long as 20 hours to complete, it is imperative that production downtime is kept to a minimum. Since installing the Russell AMPro Sieve Station™, Progressive Technology has doubled its manufacturing productivity and halved its labor costs, significantly improving lead times and reducing cost.

Cooper commented, “The AMPro has significantly reduced job turnaround time. It automates the powder handling process, allowing operators to focus on other key tasks, such as preparing the machine for the next build. It has been a fantastic investment for us – speeding up our day-to-day process and improving our materials’ quality – absolutely key when producing high-value parts”.

“The AMPro is the entry point to our manufacturing process. We use it to quality-check new batches of powder and remove any contamination before it enters the process. Sieving incoming powders under inert atmosphere also eliminates the risk of moisture damage. And, at the end of the build process, the AMPro is used to remove the unused powder from around the parts.”

Automation is central to the AMPro’s success. The carefully designed component parts have been incorporated into a single system, which provides a fully-automated process when handling additive manufacturing materials. The interactive user interface controls all system components, allowing for a fully programmable one touch operation which minimizes operator involvement.

“The AMPro has a very simple one-button operation to recover the powder, and a very fast process – taking around 5 minutes – which is great for our lead times when we are under pressure to deliver components in rapid time”, states Cooper.

The modular system is designed to integrate directly into the existing build process of DMLS, LMD, SLM, SLS and EBM systems. Cooper commented, “The system is future-proof and will continue to evolve alongside our production setup. The AMPro has the potential to expand and change its control interfaces to adapt to new equipment.”

Established in 1934, Russell Finex designs machines for an international market and supplies to over 140 countries. With its head office in the U.K. and subsidiaries in Belgium, the U.S.A, India and China, the company has a truly global presence, enabling a comprehensive approach to customer service and after sales support.

Infrastructure and technical support were key to Progressive Technology working with Russell Finex. Cooper explained, “We have an excellent working relationship with Russell Finex. We collaborated on design to ensure that the system met our requirements and were able to trial the AMPro prior to purchase, which enabled us to get up and running in good time.”

Having worked within the Additive Manufacturing industry since its outset, Russell Finex partners with global manufacturers to provide innovative equipment to meet the needs of this evolving market. The company has applied its 85 years of experience in manufacturing industrial sieving solutions to develop the award-winning Russell AMPro Sieve Station™.

Russell Finex is proud to offer the widest range of sieving equipment to the AM industry. Standard systems available include standalone units to suit any powder vessel, inert gas purging to preserve powder characteristics and integrated closed-loop powder recovery systems.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of ManufacturingTomorrow

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