On day one of formnext, one of the first stands I walked past was Adira's. I was still finding my bearings at the show, which this year was spread across two floors, four storeys apart (for the record, I never found them). The stand was mostly taken up by a very large machine with a notice on the bridge platform that allowed visitors to see inside, which read: ‘The World’s Largest Metal Part Printer!’ I made a mental note to return.
The first press conference at formnext was hosted by GE Additive, which unveiled the beta metal additive manufacturing (AM) machine of the Project A.T.L.A.S. (Additive Technology Large Area System) program, which GE is referring to as its ‘meter-class, laser powder-bed fusion machine’.
The machine has an X, Y build plate of 1.1 x 1.1 m, with a Z axis up to 30 cm. But according to Mohammad Ehteshami, vice president and general manager of GE Additive, this is just the beginning. Scalability is the key here, and the GE team was keen to point out that this can go much bigger in the Z axis. This scalability is courtesy of the process set-up, whereby the powder bed is moved across the build plate to deliver the material layers.
The machine is branded as a Concept Laser machine. It was developed and produced in Lichtenfels, Germany, under the direction of Frank Herzog, chief executive officer (CEO) and founder of Concept Laser, now a GE company since GE Additive acquired a majority shareholding last year. The Lichtenfels facility is set to increase in size and capacity to accommodate the Project A.T.L.A.S. program.
Once the GE press conference ended, I took the opportunity to ask about Adira, but nobody seemed to be aware of the company, and on Wednesday morning I headed for the stand to find out more.
The machine is called AC—addcreator—and the process, I noticed this time, is called tiled laser melting, a registered trademark. Also prominent on the machine were two new posters—one stating ‘SOLD’ (to Poly-Shape) and a smaller one highlighting a partnership with Siemens, which looked very much like an endorsement, in reference to the process controls and software.
I sat down to speak with Francisco Cardoso Pinto, executive vice chairman of Adira, who told me that the company is headquartered in Canelas in Portugal, with a 60+ year history in sheet metal forming machinery. Since 2000, the company has developed and commercialized laser machining solutions and three years ago began R&D into additive manufacturing. The company has been flying low under the radar, but the AC concept was apparently introduced last year at the Euroblech Hannover event, and had press coverage from TCT Magazine in November 2016, when it was presented as a conceptual platform.
Adira is claiming the AC is a production machine, that the company holds global patents and its primary IP is on the environmental controls of the powder delivery, which moves over the 1.2 x 1.2 m build plate (X, Y), with a 50 cm Z axis, to ensure conditions are optimal to control spatter and prevent oxidation.
There’s definitely more to come from this story.