Introducing “Belotti BEAD”
Large scale additive manufacturing process is revolutionizing the industrial production, being a real game-changer technology when combined with a cnc machining center.
Seizing the high potential offered by LSAM with thermoplastic materials, and the endless versatility of applications across a wide range of industry segments, Belotti has developed its own technology called “BEAD”, the all-in-one gantry system that integrates 3D printing with 5-axis cnc milling in a single machining center.
BEAD machine exploits the best of both worlds, combining the speed and creative potential of 3D printing with the precision and reliability of a cnc center. Through an easy, complete integration of a CEAD extruder for LSAM (of variable dimensions and output) in a Belotti 5-axis cnc machining center, BEAD allows for the production of parts that are sufficiently oversized to be finished to the required tolerances with times and raw materials consumption lower than traditional methods.
BEAD machine can be possible in different configurations, with variable build volumes, extrusion outputs and printing orientations.
Some units have been supplied to and installed at Belotti European customers as new machines or as retrofits on existing Belotti cnc centers, while new applications and pilot projects are constantly tested at Belotti HQs’ showroom in Italy, where the BEAD machine is in operation.
Retrofit activities on Belotti VEGA cnc center at D-Composites
In 2023 Belotti S.p.A has expanded the production capacity and opportunites of D-Composites company by retrofitting VEGA cnc machining center purchased back in 2018 to obtain an all-in-one gantry machine for additive and subtractive manufacturing.
D-Composites is a Lithuanian company with wealth of experience in the design, manufacture, assembly and supply of complete engineering solutions for composite materials and metal parts.
“For model production we use Belotti VEGA Series CNC machining centers which are the best for production of aluminium, composite materials and resin milling applications” says Ilja Poteskins, D-Composites product manager. “This concept represents the answer to the high demand of the leading industries in the aerospace, marine and automotive fields and in general of the major pattern makers and composite parts manufacturers”.
Belotti VEGA 8032 5-axis cnc center at D-Composites has been equipped with CEAD S25 3Dprinting extruder, enabling the company to:
- expand their production services for the aerospace, automotive and composites tooling industries;
- obtain greater production flexibility;
- save time and costs on traditional applications.
Retrofit involved the upgrade of the old machine numerical control, to allow the addition of new functionalities needed for the extrusion process management, and the integration of the extruder cabling system. Being an already Siemens-controlled machine, the operator is able to monitor process parameters directly from the panel of the gantry system as if it was a brand new BEAD machine.
The S25 extruder, a lightweight solution with a maximum output of 24 kg/h, enables the exploitation of the five axes of the machine and so the user to program complex extrusion paths based on optimal printing orientation and final material properties. The extrusion output allows for the processing of a wide range of thermoplastic materials, from commodities, extensively used for low temperature applications, like PP, PETG or ABS, to high performant materials like fiber filled PA6, PC, PEI or PESU, able to sustain up to 200°C service temperatures.
This new hybrid machine (Belotti VEGA 8032 + 3D extruder) will be used for the manufacturing of tools for composite production, from fixturing jigs to master models and direct moulds for automotive, marine and aerospace industries, where D-Composites is already deeply experienced.
D-Composites goal is to reduce internal production times and costs of composite components, both glass fibers and carbon fibers filled parts, as well as of composite tools for their own customers.
As composite materials supplier, Airtech Advanced Materials Group has provided an invaluable technical support from the first customer approach with the 3D printing system, guiding D-Composites from the choice of materials to the printing strategy to optimize the shapes and properties of the products made.
BEAD can print almost all fiber-reinforced thermoplastic materials exploiting the five axes of the machining center and printing at different angles, in order to optimize mechanical and thermal properties of produced parts. The BEAD operates with composite pellets made of a thermoplastic polymer matrix and different types of fibers as reinforcement, from glass to carbon and natural fibers. Polymers range from commodity (e.g. PP, PETG) to high performance materials (e.g. PESU, PEEK).
Differently from thermosettings, thermoplastics could be recyclable and re-used, making the process even more sustainable and less environmentally impacting.
Start-up phase and training at D-Composites
After the retrofit service, a complete training session has been provided to the customer to transfer as complete knowledge as possible about the features, functions and operating modes of the new hybrid gantry system. In fact, training session is a key moment in the start-up phase of every Belotti technology.
Whenever a Belotti BEAD technology is supplied, the following topics are addressed during the LSAM training session:
- LSAM design guidelines for preparing 3D models;
- theoretical overview of the 3D printing system (dryer-control cabinet-extruder);
- control interface for extruder management;
- practice printing test of standard/customer-specific geometries;
- effect of alternative printing settings on the extrusion process;
- printing materials overview;
- support with partners (suppliers of material and slicing software for 3D printing);
- system maintenance.
Belotti BEAD VEGA machine at D-Composites is equipped with:
- axes’ strokes: X 8 m – Y 3,2 m – Z 2 m;
- cast-iron table with T-slots;
- single shoulder head with 22 kW electrospindle;
- SDS measurement system;
- 3D probing system with radio transmission;
- 16 positions tool changer;
- Numerical Control: Siemens;
- CEAD S25 extruder, 24 kg/h for 3D printing with thermoplastic materials.