The ExOne Company (www.exone.com), a global provider of three-dimensional ("3D") printing machines and 3D printed and other products to industrial customers, announced today the qualification of a new application for its additive manufacturing process, Water Wash-out Tooling, designed to aid in the development of manufacturing and composite tooling.
ExOne’s Materials Applications Laboratory (ExMAL) identified the limitations of traditional manufacturing techniques for tooling production in water soluble materials and developed the new application to meet the challenges presented by the varying designs of composite parts. Using ExOne’s printers, the Company created 3D printed cores that can simply be washed out of a part after manufacturing. To fully realize the capabilities of the application, ExMAL developed a new surface coating process that is applied to the printed core and eliminates the porousness of printed media and provides extremely smooth surface finishes.
Rick Lucas, ExOne’s Chief Technology Officer, commented, “As ExOne continues to qualify applications and materials for industrial 3D printing, developing systems that allow our customers to directly print not only parts but the tooling required to make parts was the logical evolution. This new Water Wash-out Tooling process is unique when compared with traditional methods in that all of the print material can be recovered and reused for future print cycles. Accordingly, it reduces inventory requirements and removes molding steps to help speed up development time.”
Intended for the production of hollow parts, typical of mandrel or clamshell molding, ExOne’s Water Wash-out Tooling process involves the 3D printing of a core in sand, ceramics, or carbon applying a composite lay-up and curing. The final core is then washed out with only the structural composite part remaining.
The dimensionally stable process provides manufacturers with easy prototyping for part evaluation, and can be used with Polyester, Vinyl Ester or Epoxy resins. The system is fully capable of autoclave pressures to 125 psi and can withstand process temperatures up to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. The process has a short lead time requiring no machining, and the print media can be chosen to optimize Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (CTE), thermal connectivity, and density.
Water Wash-out Tooling is ideal for printing mandrels for filament winding, tape placement or hand lay-up; plugs and source tools; styling and design models; hollow or trapped shape fabrication; and one-off parts for part validation.