New coating infrastructure used for finishing and functionalization of 3D printed products.

With additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, the product is built up in layers. This is why the surface is very rough. Therefore polishing and coating are required. However, the erratic shape of complex products - mainly plastic or metal - normally demand that they are finished by hand, which is a labour-intensive process. Sirris wants to bring about change here with its new coating infrastructure.

The demand for small production series of functional AM products for industrial and consumer applications is steadily increasing. It will therefore be essential to provide higher and better surface quality in order to meet this rising demand, just as it is with surface treatments for specific working environments. Unfortunately this is simply not feasible with the standard finishing processes and decorative coatings currently available. The high costing details are also standing in the way of a large-scale rollout.

New spray booth with robot

With its brand new coating infrastructure - an investment of €400,000 - the Sirris technology centre wants to remove these obstacles from blocking the way ahead. The Smart Coating Application Lab in Diepenbeek has acquired a new spray booth for treating, coating and curing prototypes and small production series of large objects.

The entire process is automated with a demonstration robot so that both consistent high quality and cost efficiency can be guaranteed. The flexible robot has a learning-by-demonstration functionality. It therefore needs just a minimum of programming and mimics whatever it is shown by the operator.

Automation of the entire coating process

Sirris, along with a number of Belgian and German companies and knowledge centres will be researching in the laboratory how coatings can get rid of rough surfaces so that the expensive, labour-intensive, manual polishing is no longer required. The coatings will simultaneously add new functionalities to the product: chemical durability, antimicrobial properties, scratch and wear resistance, low frictional coefficients, etc.

Standard coating formulas will be modified where necessary in order that the desired properties can be integrated within the state-of-the-art coating technology. In addition to the actual coating, there are also various preliminary treatments and curing techniques integrated into the process. The preliminary treatments ensure proper adhesion of the coating and depends on the type of materials used. The same applies to the curing afterwards: either hot air, infrared or UV light is used, depending on the formulation of the coating.

Top technology accessible to SMEs

Sirris’ ambitions? To make coating more accessible to manufacturers in general and to SMEs in particular. The aim is to set up different industry-relevant generic case studies and develop the best techniques and procedures for polymers and metals that are based on the demands of the participating companies. The participants will validate the results and applicability within their own SME environments.  This way will not only lead to a substantial increase in the number of functional applications for AM products, but it will also lead to Belgian companies eventually tapping into new markets. 

Official opening on 12 April

The new infrastructure will be officially opened at the Smart Coating Application Lab in Diepenbeek on 12 April. In addition to live demonstrations of the various robot functionalities, 3D printed components, etc., will be coated in the spray booth. Would you like to attend the opening event?

Click here for more information and the registration form.