AM Solutions Automates Smoothing and Homogenization for Printing Job Shop

When Klaus Stöcker (Stöcker) started offering ready-to-install 3D-printed plastic and metal components to its customers, the job shop initially utilized manual post-processing methods. Due to the rapidly growing demand and stricter requirements for process stability and consistency of these operations, the company took a new approach when it purchased two automated systems from AM Solutions, a brand of the Rosler Group.

The initial purchase included an S1 for de-powdering and an M1 Basic for surface smoothing and homogenization. Based on excellent processing results, a second M1 Basic system was recently commissioned as a cost-efficient alternative to chemical smoothing.

The Situation

Klaus Stöcker metal processing was founded in 1990 in Wermelskirchen-Dabringhausen, Germany. Since then, it has grown to employ approximately 60 team members and offers a wide range of services in the field of machining. This includes turning, milling, sinking and wire EDM, face and circular grinding, assembly, and measuring with state-of-the-art machinery.

The company also fabricates its own tooling, fixtures, gauges, and special machinery. It serves customers in the automotive, pharmaceutical, food, and machinery-building industries.

In 2016, Stöcker began offering 3D-printed plastic and metal parts and now utilizes 16 printers. The company produces components made from different types of plastic, including PA 6 and PA 12, but also materials re-enforced with glass, carbon, and Kevlar fiber with the FDM/FFF and SLS printing methods.

A stereolithographic system (SLA/PJM) is primarily used for printing optical components with different technical characteristics and in different colors. Selective laser melting (SLM) and atomic diffusion additive manufacturing (ADAM) are used to make metal components from aluminum alloys, different types of stainless steel, and various tool steels.

The Challenge

Stöcker quickly realized that it could only be successful if it offered services within the entire process chain, not just the printing operation.

“On the one hand, this includes a comprehensive consultation with our customers to determine if a component can be made with additive manufacturing and, if so, which design changes are required, and which printing technology and material is most suitable,” said Arnd Meller, Manager of Additive Manufacturing at Stöcker.

“On the other hand, post processing is an important operation that allows us to supply ready-to-install components to our customers,” he explained.

In the beginning, post-processing operations took place manually with tools that were available internally. For example, laser-sintered plastic parts were cleaned in a manual blast cabinet. As demand grew, necessitating more strict requirements for process stability and consistency of the post-processing operation, the existing manual methods were no longer feasible.

When investigating automated solutions as an alternative, product quality, operational safety, total cost of ownership, and ease of operation were all important considerations.

“In the end, it was the excellent expert advice and comprehensive experience in surface treatment that made us decide to purchase our post-processing equipment from AM Solutions,” Meller said. “In addition, I was really impressed by the manufacturing depth of AM Solutions/Rosler at their site in Untermerzbach.”

M1Basic machines from AM Solutions in use at Klaus Stöcker

The Unexpected Solution

Initially, cleaning of the components with the S1 system was the only subject of the discussions. For the surface refinement of its 3D-printed components, the company was pursuing different solutions, such as chemical smoothing. During a visit to the Customer Experience Center, however, Meller was surprised to learn that the M1 Basic produces excellent results within relatively short cycle times.

Surface smoothing and homogenization of plastic components, including lower surface roughness readings, are demanded by many customers. With the M1 Basic, AM Solutions offers a system that fulfills these demands quickly with absolutely repeatable results and with a high degree of process stability.

“For many components, mass finishing technology represents an excellent alternative to chemical smoothing. The smoothing process is significantly more cost-effective, providing us with a considerable competitive advantage,” Meller said. “No doubt, the expert knowledge of AM Solutions, based on Rosler’s comprehensive expertise in mass finishing technologies and the development and production of suitable media, also plays an important role.”

The M1 Basic is a compact plug-and-play finishing system with integrated process controls that allow the surface grinding, smoothing, and polishing of 3D-printed plastic and metal components. Equipped with an integrated process water cleaning and recycling system and a 230-volt connection, the M1 Basic can be easily integrated into practically any production environment as a standalone unit.

It allows the finishing of entire work piece batches or single components with dimensions of up to 22 x 6 x 5 in (L X W X H) (550 x 150 x 130 mm) and with different shapes. This innovative system can be easily adapted to all kinds of finishing tasks.

Work piece-specific programs can be stored in the equipment controls. The standard processing bowl can be divided into two separate chambers, allowing for simultaneous finishing of work pieces with different finishing processes.

The use of the M1 Basic in the AM department at Stöcker proved to be so successful that the company purchased a second machine for the surface finishing of metal.

The Rosler Way

Decades of experience and the ability to design, service, and maintain machines as well as provide the consumables and accessories required to get the finish you require make Rosler and AM Solutions a well-rounded, single source for surface finishing expertise. Contact us to discuss your additive manufacturing mass finishing needs.

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