The Vapormate wet-blasting cabinet from Vapormatt is allowing innovative manufacturer i2M to achieve a faster, more cost effective production process for its high quality, low volume components. The Vapormate wet blast unit is now an essential part of the i2M production process, giving them the professional final finish that they require time and time again.
In 2012 a trio of engineers from Warwick – Ian Campbell, Mike Kelly and Dr Bruno Le Razer – turned their back on senior positions in industry to launch a world-class additive manufacturing facility: Innovate 2 Make (i2M). As well as investing well over £0.5 million in its Leamington Spa premises it has also spent another half-million plus on state-of-the-art equipment, including the latest EOS Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) platform and a Vapormate wet blasting unit for deburring and final finishing.
A new approach to producing components, additive manufacturing involves using a Computer Aided Design model (3D CAD) to orientate the piece required, slice the CAD data into layers, then – using a Ytterbium fibre laser – draw each layer on a powder bed containing fine metallic particles, ‘growing’ the layers together to produce the final component. In this way, complex structures can be manufactured in a wide range of materials, including aluminium, titanium, inconel and stainless steel. The process has been used for a wide range of components, from titanium roll hoops in Formula 1 cars to stiletto heels. Unlike conventional machining, there is almost zero waste, no need for expensive tooling, and fast turnaround times.
i2M is unique in that, rather than simply producing the CAD files, which are then output for processing, they possess all the equipment required to ensure they can take their customers through the entire additive manufacturing process.
As it creates stronger, lighter parts, i2M prefers to focus on titanium as its metal of choice, but it also offers Aluminium and Inconel. Most parts require final finishing, typically polishing for aesthetic purposes, plus removal of burrs and excessive roughness. Titanium is a reactive metal, and can be dry blasted but this process must be used with caution; dry blasting with titanium dust has the potential to cause explosions as the static charge can create sparks. So, i2M required a different solution. To achieve the professional final finish required, i2M reviewed a number of potential suppliers and chose Vapormatt for the quality of its equipment, knowledge of the wet blast process, value for money and excellent technical support.
With a working envelope of 300x580x400mm and a maximum load capacity of 25kg, the Vapormate wet blast unit was selected as the unit that best suited i2M’s needs. Operated with one of Vapormatt's manual guns and a foot pedal to start, the Vapormate unit is self-contained, simple to use and fits neatly into all work environments.
The Vapormate is now an essential part of the production process, allowing i2M to finish parts within minutes. The Vapormate wet blast unit also comes with excellent technical support from Vapormatt when it comes to issues such as spares and media, or recipe and process advice. A full range of spare parts, abrasive media and other consumables are available – all of which can be found in the Vapormatt online catalogue. The company also provides support, service and upgrade packages that allow access to expertise and a schedule of preventative maintenance and recommendations for process development.
i2M has significantly improved production speed and quality by installing the Vapormate and is now increasing sales to more manufacturing companies that are eager to adopt the exciting and swiftly evolving technology of additive manufacturing into their production processes.