3D printing has come a long way in a relatively short time. While many may still think of the process in terms of hobbyist printing plastic parts, 3D metal printing is an increasingly common manufacturing method. Advanced servo motors take this technology even further.
3D metal printing already brings many benefits to manufacturing processes. It’s fast, precise, affordable, and less wasteful than traditional production methods. As manufacturers add new servo motors to their 3D printers, they can take all of these advantages to new heights. Here are five ways advanced servo motors improve metal additive manufacturing.
1. Faster Prints
Perhaps the most immediately recognizable benefits of new servo motor technology is its speed. Additive manufacturing already represents a substantial speed improvement over conventional, subtractive methods. However, the stepper motors in earlier 3D printers lose torque at higher speeds.
Advanced servo motors don’t have that issue. These devices operate under a closed-loop system, compared to stepper motors’ open-loop design, allowing them to reach higher speeds without losing torque. As a result, manufacturers can use them to print metal parts faster.
Faster prints translate into more rapid prototyping and manufacturing, shortening the product development timeline. It also means manufacturers can produce more parts in less time, making more of the energy they consume. As a result, they can either scale up production to increase revenue or decrease expenses to increase profit.
2. Reduced Vibrations
In general, servo motors produce fewer vibrations than stepper motors. Advanced servo motor technology takes this a step further and incorporates vibration suppression filters. Consequently, 3D printers utilizing these parts can produce finer or more complex parts with fewer errors.
Manufacturers are starting to 3D print electronics and prosthetics, raising the need for precise operation. While 3D metal printing is already precise, stepper motors may vibrate too much to meet these tiny, delicate products’ extremely low margins for error. New servo motors eliminate that concern.
This vibration reduction also reduces the need for final polishing and edge finishing, since it doesn’t produce the stepped lines that stepper motors do. It lets manufacturers 3D print more advanced parts and produce standard products in fewer steps.
Advanced servo motors also use position feedback to automatically tune their operations to the job at hand. Stepper motors don’t have this feature, so manufacturers may have to manually adjust their tuning if a new project has different mechanics or process needs. Automating this process makes 3D metal printing far more adaptable.
If manufacturers also use inventory management software, which can save commonly used work orders, they can easily switch between products on the same work line. 3D printing processes could then adapt to the needs of the rest of the facility. Instead of only producing a single part, they could manufacture whatever the facilities need most at any given time.
This adaptability helps mitigate supply chain delays, demand shifts, and other disruptions. Manufacturers could then avoid the shortcomings of lean production while minimizing waste.
4. Increased Uptime
Servo motors also eliminate time-consuming processes that most 3D printers entail. While servo motor systems still need regular maintenance, they reduce machine downtime, thanks to automatic homing.
Homing is a process where printers determine their extruder’s position along the X, Y, and Z axes to operate precisely. Conventional stepper motor-powered systems must perform this every time they turn on, taking time away from production. Newer servo motor technologies include absolute encoder feedback, which lets them retain the extruder’s position after homing it once.
3D printers with this technology can become operational after shutdowns for maintenance and power savings in far less time than those without it. As a result, manufacturers can resume production faster and minimize maintenance-related costs. Even disruption from power outages will result in less downtime.
5. Jam Detection
As efficient as 3D metal printers are, their extruders can jam, disrupting production. Conventional stepper motors lack the technology to detect these jams, worsening the situation and wasting material. By contrast, advanced servo motors can sense when the extruder jams and respond accordingly.
The key to this ability lies in servo motors’ high-resolution optical encoders. These devices provide more than 16 million bits of closed-loop feedback resolution, letting the motor detect extruder backup. When they sense material backing up, they can slow or stop to prevent sealing off and jamming the nozzle.
This feature lets servo motor-powered 3D printers mitigate extruder bottlenecks and prevent breakdowns. As a result, they improve uptime, avoid jamming-related errors, and help maintain consistent production. Manufacturers can then use 3D metal printing to its fullest potential.
3D Metal Printing Needs Advanced Servo Motors
3D metal printing could become a critical part of staying competitive in modern manufacturing. As facilities rely more heavily on these machines, they’ll need the latest technology to ensure they remain efficient and precise.
Advanced servo motors are the key to unlocking 3D printing’s value. Printers with this technology push all the benefits of additive manufacturing further, helping any manufacturer become more efficient and less wasteful in order to deliver higher-quality products.