How motion control systems drives innovation in additive manufacturing

Bill Hennessey is the president of ALIO Industries and he discusses how precision motion controls can be used to drive additive manufacturing systems.

By fundamentally changing the subtractive process, additive manufacturing disrupts the manufacturing paradigm. Additive manufacturing creates objects directly from digital design, instead of drilling, cutting, moulding, or machining raw material.

This method reduces waste and allows complex geometries that are impossible to achieve with traditional methods. It also accelerates prototyping and customizes production. It revolutionises industries by enabling the rapid, efficient and on-demand construction of intricate products and parts. 

Precision and repeatability are becoming increasingly important as additive manufacturing becomes a production technique. Minor deviations are acceptable in prototyping but accuracy and consistency is crucial for production. Layer-by-layer deposition of material ensures accurate reproduction of complex geometries, while meeting design specifications. Additive manufacturing is used by industries such as aerospace, medical devices and automotive to produce end-use components. These parts must adhere to tight tolerances in order to maintain safety, performance and compatibility with larger systems. 

This is important for the integration of assembly lines and quality control. This consistency minimizes errors and waste while streamlining production processes. This consistency is key to the success of additive manufacturing, especially in high-volume industries such as electronics and consumer goods. 

Motion control: What is it?

These systems play an integral role in additive manufacturing machines. They are critical to achieving the high level of precision needed for complex and functional final parts. These systems control the movement of build platforms, print heads and other critical components, with micron-level accuracy. This ensures that the material is deposited evenly and accurately on each layer of the object. These systems minimize deviations and errors by tightly controlling movement and position. 

Precision is key in additive manufacturing to achieve intricate structures, fine tolerances and optimal surface finishes. Motion control systems with ultra-precision contribute to precision through their ability to make intricate adjustments and to respond to sensor feedback in real time. These systems eliminate any vibrations, jitters, or oscillations that could affect print quality. They allow additive manufacturing systems to compensate variations in material characteristics, environmental conditions and other factors, which may impact the outcome. 

The coordination of ultra-precise movement control systems with critical components such as advanced sensors, real-time monitoring and other critical components ensures that every layer of material is deposition with exceptional precision. This results in complex geometries and functional prototypes and end-uses parts that meet stringent requirements for industries that embrace additive manufacturing. 

The Motion Control Leadership

Motion control technology is a critical component and capability for an additive manufacturing machine. Precision is the first and most important factor. Suppliers must have motion control systems that can achieve nanometer precision. This will ensure that complex geometries, intricate details and layers are created with precision. This precision ensures the production of high quality end-use components. 

Repeatability in additive manufacturing is crucial for consistency. Motion control should be extremely repeatable, so that identical parts can be produced across multiple manufacturing runs. This consistency is critical for industries such as aerospace or medical devices, which place a high priority on quality assurance and regulatory compliance. Suppliers must also provide advanced closed-loop systems that integrate sensors and real-time monitors to ensure any deviations and errors are detected and corrected as soon as possible during the printing process. 

Scalability and adaptability are also important considerations. Additive manufacturing is a rapidly evolving industry, as machines become larger, faster and more sophisticated. Motion control technology suppliers must provide solutions that are able to accommodate different machine types and sizes, while seamlessly integrating into evolving printer architectures. Adaptability is crucial for manufacturers who want to maximise productivity, reduce downtime and adapt new materials and processes. Finally, collaboration and support is crucial. A reliable provider should provide comprehensive technical support, as well as training and a partnership mentality, to allow manufacturers to integrate motion control systems in their additive manufacturing machines. This will ultimately contribute to the success of the products on the market. 

Motion Control – Specifics

To control the positioning print heads, platforms and other important elements, additive manufacturing machines use a combination linear stages, gantries and rotary stages.  

Linear stages. The use of high-precision linear stage is a key component of additive manufacturing machines. They allow controlled and precise movements along straight paths. These stages use advanced technologies, such as precision linear rollers, ball screw drives, and linear direct drive, to ensure smooth, accurate translation of build platforms or print heads. These stages maintain tight tolerances to guide the deposition with precision. This allows for consistent layer-bylayer material placement. 

Accurate layer deposition in additive manufacturing is crucial to achieve the desired object’s geometrical and structural integrity. Linear stages with high precision are crucial in ensuring each layer is placed accurately according to the digital design. This level of control minimizes errors and deviations, resulting in parts that meet the intended specifications. This is true whether it’s the fine details of a model or the exact alignment of key features. High-precision linear stage technology that allows controlled movement along straight lines contributes significantly to the reliability and the quality of additive processes. 

Gantries. Gantries allow for highly precise and controlled movements, which are ideal for industrial applications like additive manufacturing. They are crucial in positioning components such as printheads, build platforms or other tools precisely and coordinatedly during manufacturing processes. Gantries are able to achieve micron- and sub-micron precision by executing motion paths with minimum deviations. This level of precision helps to produce complex 3D-printed products that are accurate and precise, improving product quality, dimensional accuracy and manufacturing efficiency. 

Rotary Stages The rotational correction feature is common in additive manufacturing machines. These stages rotate objects and components with extreme accuracy. This makes them ideal for applications that require uniform coverage of cylindrical objects and structures, such as 360-degree continuous printing. The print head, or the material deposition mechanism can apply material to the entire circumference. This ensures even layer deposition and distribution. 

Rotary stages also allow for precise angular adjustments during additive manufacturing processes. For objects with complex geometries or contours, a controlled rotation is often required to deposit material at specific angles. Rotary stages give the flexibility needed to accurately position the object. They allow the material to deposit in alignment with intended design. The result is high-quality prints, with intricate details and detailed features. Rotary stages are a versatile tool that allows for both continuous rotation as well as precise angular adjustment. This greatly enhances the capabilities and versatility of additive manufacturing machines. 

Multi-Axis Systems. Multi-axis system play an important role in enabling intricate and complex movements. Multiple coordinated axes allow for the simultaneous control of translation and rotation of components. Multi-axis configurations can be particularly useful for objects that have overhangs, undercuts and complex geometries. They allow the material to be deposited at different angles and orientations. These systems ensure that printed structures retain their quality and integrity throughout the entire printing process. 

Closed Loop Feedback Closed-loop mechanisms are an integral part of motion control systems on additive manufacturing machines. These systems include sensors, encoders, real-time monitors and other tools to continuously measure deviations from desired positions. Closed-loop systems reduce errors and inaccuracies because they provide immediate feedback to control system. Printed objects are then produced to exact design specifications. Motion control systems are evolving as the additive manufacturing industry progresses. They incorporate advanced technologies, such as machine learning and adaptive control strategies, to enhance precision, speed and overall performance. 

The following is a summary of the information that you will find on this page. 

ALIO Industries offers ultra-precise control solutions for additive manufacturing due to the layer-bylayer deposition process. The intricate nature of this process requires nanometer accuracy in order to guarantee high quality and repeatable results. Partnership and customisation of motion control systems are also essential to innovate next-generation machines for additive manufacturing that pushes the limits of speed and accuracy. The collaboration between manufacturers, motion control suppliers, and 3D printers allows the integration and customization of tailored solutions. This helps to address specific challenges and unlock novel capabilities.