Custom-Fit, funded by the EC under Sixth Framework Programme, is an industry led project with the aim of creating a fully integrated system for the design, production and supply of individualised products using Rapid Manufacturing technologies. One objective of the project is to develop new production systems based on additive manufacturing technology for the manufacturing of customised products. De Montfort University (DMU) in UK has contributed to the project by developing one of the new additive manufacturing processes, the Plastic Powder Printing (PPP).
PPP aims to develop the equivalent of a high speed laser printer that produces three-dimensional 3D objects from plastic powder where powder is first deposited by means of laser printing /electrophotography technique and subsequently fused under infrared heating units to make solid layers. Layers are consolidated further to make 3D plastic objects. Various thermoplastic toners from standard engineering polymers like polyethylene (high and low density), polypropylene, and polystyrene have already been deposited using this technique and later fused with infrared to form the layers.
Professor David Wimpenny, who is heading the development of PPP in De Montfort University, says “PPP can be used for printing multi material and products with functional grading. It is able to vary the material density and also capable of printing up to speed of 2000 pages per minute in principle, with resolutions up to 2400 dots per inches. Such high printing speed will help to reduce the cost per part”.
DMU has already filed a patent for the new powder deposition technology. Several machine developing companies have shown interests in this process and DMU is in talk with the companies to bring PPP to the market. Typical products that can be manufactured with PPP are foam inserts for helmets, seats, backpacks, chairs, etc.
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