- carry out systematic metal alloys parameters study;
- create metal prototypes and test design feasibility;
- build ‘perfect’ industrial metal components tested in ‘real’ industrials trials.
Here, I’ll expand on the EOS M280. Together with its brothers M270 and the new-ish M400, it is one of the fastest-selling AM machine for metal components on the market.
General description and operation
Typically for a powder bed AM unit, it is purchased with a wet separator. This is a vacuum-cleaner-type unit used to limit powder cloud generation during powder handling and chamber cleaning. Its water- or oil-filled tank is used to neutralise the processed powder and reactive condensates. Condensates are machined powder clusters too larges to be recycled via sieving.
An optional, stand-alone automatic powder-sieving station can be added (price tag) and proves very useful to minimise manual operation. We have used it without any hassle for ‘heavy’ and less reactive nickel alloys powder. However, it is not advisable to use it for lighter, more reactive powders, such as aluminium or titanium alloys, as it doesn’t operate inert atmosphere. The whole system – cooler & M280 & filter cabinet - needs compressed air and argon or nitrogen supply lines to run safely and efficiently.
Maintenance and consumables
Over the last 2 years, we’ve had very few software issues and generally these are resolved diligently by calling or emailing the technical support. We found the build-time calculator also interfered with the process on occasions. We just didn’t use this option until a fix was found by EOS. As for the hardware, minor breakdowns occurred: the oxygen sensor malfunctioned on two occasion (half-way through critical jobs). As a precaution, we now always keep a spare one readily available. The door seal had to get changed as gas leaks prevented the building chamber to gas down efficiently and interfered intermittently with the machining. Given the extensive use of the machine, these are typical wear-and-tear failures.
Software updates are usually pretty straightforward. For each upgrade, however, the home-found building parameters require a complete re-programing as they can’t be read by the new version. Only ‘standard’ building parameters can be read. This can be awkward if you rely on the machine to store your components parameters for traceability and accountability…