French researchers combines laser-based 3D printing with milling

Competitive selection of Delcam software gives it an important French ally in the competitive plastics industry.

Additive manufacturing processes—such as laser sintering—and machining are usually regarded as competing processes. However, the two technologies are being combined in a project at the French research center PEP to improve plastics manufacturing mold-making.

The French research institute PEP is using Delcam’s PowerMILL CAM software for finish machining of laser-sintered parts created on EOS 3D printers. (Source: Delcam)

PEP is the main technical center for innovation in the French plastics industry, specializing in the injection molding of thermoplastics. It was founded in 1989, with the support of the French government, by companies in the Rhône-Alpes region, an area known as “plastics valley” because of the high concentration of molding companies and mold-makers. For more than 20 years, PEP’s mission has been to provide expertise and services to the country’s plastics companies, in particular to develop their productivity, both through collaborative research projects and through individual contracts.

The main areas of expertise of PEP’s researchers and engineers include design and simulation of parts and processes, injection moulding processes and tooling, and plastics materials. The aim of the project is to provide support – technical, human resources and financial – for companies working in the French plastics sector.

A recent PEP project was launched with very specific objectives. The organization wanted CAD for electrode design, excellent 2D and 3D milling, including support for continuous five-axis operation, and a technology for on-machine verification. The overall aim was to reduce programming and machining times, but the system also needed to offer the ability to develop specific macros and strategies for molding, aerospace and medical projects.

Delcam software had been previously used by PEP for PLATINNO, a technological innovation platform for tooling undertaken in association with CETIM, France’s main research centre for mechanical engineering. So it was the first CAM product considered for the new research. With support from CETIM, which has undertaken research into high-speed machining for many years, PEP was introduced to all the main CADCAM vendors to assess their systems.

After assessing competing brands, PEP settled on Delcam as its CAM vendor of choice for the milling project. It is decision it said it thought Delcam would be a more thorough solution. It acquired PowerSHAPE, PowerMILL, PowerINSPECT and ArtCAM.

The first step in the project was to acquire a Roders high-speed machining center to perform finishing operations on metallic parts created by laser sintering from an EOS machine already owned by PEP.

PEP has become subsequently much more than a typical customer, with close relationships established with the staff from Delcam France. The organization is developing as an important partner, with a series of joint technical days undertaken already this year.