Cheaper and better production of radar antennas

In a MADE demonstration project together with the Danish Technological Institute, the Danish machine manufacturer Newtec has tested metal 3D printing on two exciting applications: a nozzle in stainless steel and a sorting roller in titanium. For Newtec, the experience from the project was surprising – it turned out that metal 3D printing is both cheaper and further developed than they expected. The experience has already proved useful in other parts of Newtec.

The Danish company Newtec produces weighing, packing and sorting machines – mainly for the fruit and vegetable industry. Newtec was part of a MADE demonstration project to gain new knowledge about 3D printing.

“We chose to apply for the MADE Demonstration project, as it gave us the opportunity to work with metal 3D printing for the first time,” says Bjarke Jensen, who is a research scientist at Newtec.

For 3D printing of the metal parts as well as consultancy and sparring about the development, Newtec received help from the Center for Industrial 3D printing at the Danish Technological Institute.

“At the Danish Technological Institute, we have helped Newtec with 3D printing in metal, and they have gained extra knowledge about the technology – for example, what it can do and how to design for it, but also how the finishing looks and how the quality is,” says Sigurd Vigen Pedersen, consultant at the Danish Technological Institute and Newtec’s contact person in the MADE demonstration project.

About Newtec

  • The Danish company Newtec produces weighing, packing and sorting machines – mainly for the fruit and vegetable industry.
  • The company was founded in 1976, is located in Odense and is represented in 40 countries across the world.
  • The SME is part of the research and innovation platform MADE FAST. Here they develop new agile manufacturing systems.
Newtec in Odense has gained new knowledge about 3D printing in a MADE demonstration project.

MADE demonstration projects

During a demonstration project, we help SMEs tackle specific challenges or try out new production technologies. Projects are tailored to the needs of the individual SME and run for six months from kick-off. During the course of the project, the SME can draw on the skills of experts up to an amount of DKK 100,000.

MADE has two different demonstration projects: (1) Manufacturing demonstration projects, which focus on the actual manufacturing process, and (2) materials demonstration projects, which put materials-related manufacturing challenges centre stage. The expertise of the specialists attached to the project will vary depending on which type of project you choose. However, in all other respects, the conditions are the same for both project types. 

It does not cost anything to participate in a demonstration project – all you invest is your time.

Demonstration projects are open for applications four times a year. 

The four deadlines are: 1 March, 1 June, 1 September and 1 December.

Read more here and see application forms

Two birds with one stone

The MADE demonstration project has given us valuable insight into metal 3D printing and its possibilities

Bjarke Jensen, Research Scientist hos Newtec

There were two applications that Newtec wanted to uncover in the MADE demonstration project. The first application was a nozzle, and according to Jensen, it was quite obvious to produce with 3D printing due to its conical shape.

“The project where the nozzle is to be used is a development project, and there is still some way to go before we have a real product. But the MADE demonstration project has given us valuable insight into metal 3D printing and its possibilities”, says Jensen.

The second application was a large sorting roller with grooves, and here the focus was on testing materials. The roller itself was not necessarily the most obvious part to make with 3D printing, as the part was large.

But with a modest investment, Newtec was given the opportunity to test titanium as a material for an important component on one of their machines. Here, 3D printing was thus used as a prototype tool, and it provided insight into the possibilities of using titanium, as well as what surface treatments the part can get to become more resilient in production.

“In the project with the roller, we have had the opportunity to test a new material that would otherwise have required a large investment. Whether it turns into something concrete is too early to say, but our tests gave promising results”, says Jensen, and adds, “Our laboratory is already working closely with national and international researchers and scientists, universities, and PhD students to identify new developments and gain insight into what has the potential to transform the entire industry tomorrow.

“Be it advances in materials science, nanotechnology, the next generation of optics, artificial intelligence (AI) and a myriad of other industry-related technologies.”

3D printing is cheaper – and further developed – than expected

One of the major experiences that Newtec takes away from the project is that metal 3D printing is further developed than they had anticipated.

“We were surprised that the technology is already as far advanced as it is. Furthermore, it was easier than expected, but also cheaper than expected. We had not expected that the 3D-printed nozzle would be cheaper than a similar stump made in the traditional way”, says Jensen.

With 3D printing, the nozzles have become significantly cheaper than if Newtec had to design and produce the optimised nozzle in a conventional way. Before, there were five parts that had to be assembled, and now there is only one optimised part where cooling fins have been added, and it has a better airflow – this results in a significant time-saving in assembly. 3D printing has thus been an essential technology in this project, which has resulted in good, practical and usable results.

“It has been valuable to have a close dialogue with Newtec in the design and optimisation process. That way, we have been able to take full advantage of the possibilities with 3D printing, but also make sure that the part is as simple as possible to manufacture – that is with minimal post-processing”, says Vigen Pedersen.

Positive experiences for the future

Newtec is now working on the nozzle, and the sorting roller requires some more tests.

“The nozzle fulfils the purpose it has right now, and the project has shown that metal 3D printing is a usable technology – also in terms of cost. Especially if you make some slightly obscure shapes. For the roller, there is still some work ahead, but the different coatings look super interesting, and so does the material”, says Jensen.

Experience reduces barriers

The MADE demonstration project has given Newtec an insight into the possibilities of metal 3D printing, and already now the company can see other projects and parts that can benefit from the technology.

“Ultimately, for us, it is about adding value to our customers’ production and delivering the best quality with cost-effective machines and solutions that will continue to work for many years to come. With our own laboratory, we ensure that even the smallest components are quality-assured and food-approved in relation to, for example, material and surface treatment”, Jensen explains.

He goes on to conclude, “As a consequence of the results in the MADE Demonstration project, we have just discussed the possibility of moving forward with metal 3D printing in a completely different context. Here, we need a weight saving on some parts in our cameras, which we develop and produce for our optical sorting machines.

“In addition, I recently spoke with one of our other designers who was considering metal 3D printing for a small component because it is so difficult to manufacture in a conventional way. So the fact that we have gotten familiar with these things means that the activation barrier has been significantly reduced for us.

“A MADE Demonstration project is a really good opportunity to test metal 3D printing and get some experience with the technology. You can assess whether it can be used in the company – and whether it can add value or not. Once the experience is gained, the basis for decision-making is better and the barriers are fewer.”

About the project

  • Title (in Danish): ’Metal 3D-printede komponenter til næste generations pakke- og sorteringsmaskiner’
  • The project ran from September 22nd 2020 – April 30th 2021
  • Project partners: Danish Technological Institute and Newtec.

Companies that work with 3D printing in MADE:

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