Poland is slowly becoming a very strong center for industrial 3D printing technology – especially in the area of SLS 3D printers. In mid-April, the Kielce Technology Park, a hub that brings together established companies and startups around new technologies, signed an agreement with 3D Lab, the official distributor of professional 3D Systems machines in Poland, for the purchase and installation of a ProX 500 Plus SLS 3D printer. The ProX 500 Plus currently stands in the Park’s newly created 3D Printing Center, the first such installation in Europe, with its impressive workspace of 38.1 x 33 x 45.7 cm, and ability to print layers as fine as 0.08 – 0.15 mm. This month, the Kielce 3D Printing Center officially began operations and is ready to take orders from Polish and European clients.
The 3D Printing Center in Kielce Technology Park is one of the most innovative centers of its kind in Poland, aimed at entrepreneurs, designers, and construction bureaus. With the use of SLS technology, 3D models printed in Kielce can be successfully ordered by such sectors as the plastics, automotive, electronics, medicine, industrial design, architecture and aviation industries. With the first such ProX 500 Plus installation in Europe, the 3D Printing Center offers these clients the largest working area in 3D Systems’ portfolio. Its footprint is then expanded by the the machine’s cleaning station, integral to the machine’s SLS post-processing.
The machine is located in a dedicated room, which maintains a consistent temperature and humidity. The ProX itself is equipped with two containers where the job is printed. Upon completion, the first container is removed from the machine and set aside to cool. Depending on how much powder fills the container, cooling time can last from one up to three days. The manufacturer recommends not opening it until the temperature reaches approximately 50 ° C. Thanks to second container, however, the machine can operate continuously; when one container cools down, the second one is used to print new models.
The large dimensions of the machine’s workspace allows user to print either large models or short runs of smaller objects. Theoretically, within one week, a ProX 500 Plus user is able to print from a few dozen to hundreds of models, varying in size.
Interestingly, during the ongoing 3D printing process, a user can even add new models to be printed. If the working chamber is saturated, ie. 60% of its capacity has printed or about half of what is asked, a user can include even more models to occupy the remaining 40% of the machine’s print capacity. This is quite a useful function because, when a print job lasts for several days in a row, it may be still supplemented by another print task a day or two later.
After completing the entire print job, the container is carried away on a special trolley table for post-processing. Once the powder is cooled down, the container is opened, the operator cleans the unsintered powder, and brings the models into the light of day. The next step is to clean them with compressed air in a separate device. The majority of the leftover powder can then be used again for subsequent prints.
The finished models are quite impressive and their advantage over FDM is the ability to print complex geometries, while maintaining very precise tolerances. All of this is possible due to the ability to keep the material and prints at a constantly high temperature, first inside the machine, and then in the container, during cooling. The last stage is equally important for the quality of the prints as the printing process itself. That is why it is so important to maintain a constant temperature and humidity in the room where the machine is located.
The services of the 3D Printing Center in Kielce will mainly benefit companies from the manufacturing industry. The Center has already 3D printed several orders in the form of 30 prototypes designed for another project at the Kielce Technology Park, dubbed “RSI Świętokrzyskie Perspectives – IV stage”. For manufacturing the prototypes, the Park did not receive any commission, but received the benefit of being introduced to the market, where it could make potential future customers become familiar with the capabilities of the SLS technology.
The 3D Printing Center at Kielce Technology Park is already running and taking on its first orders. And, with the ProX 500 Plus, customers can be assured that they will receive prints that are definitely high-quality.