Cost reduction through additive manufacturing

Small quantities, a large variety of parts and high material requirements for the production of plasma coating systems are the daily challenges of Inocon Technologie GmbH. The additive manufacturing system and the high-temperature printing material from EVO-tech save up to 90% of costs in the production of some parts.

Coating for every surface

Inocon Technologie GmbH has extensive experience, success and numerous patents in the areas of plasma hardening, plasma welding and soldering as well as a plasma preheater for the silicon industry. The plasma competence is expanded by a new, patented and low-wear plasma coating technology and is still a very young and little-researched technology area with the finest metallic powders and vapors in the atmospheric range. Powder or steam is fed into a plasma jet and a functional layer is deposited in the atmosphere.

As part of the new technology development, several coating heads and a new powder feeding technology for the finest powders have been developed. When using Inocon plasma technology with powders and vapors, functional layers can be applied, especially on sensitive substrates. So you can e.g. B. conductor tracks made of copper or tin can be applied to paper, wood and practically all plastics without damaging the surfaces to be coated.

This is a remarkable property given the high melting temperatures of the powders. Applications of such conductor tracks include, for example, cell phone antennas, LED structures or layers that increase friction and reduce wear.

We can now produce individual parts and small series from technical plastics very quickly and save an additional 90% of the costs for the components.

Dr. Fritz Pesendorfer, owner of Inocon Technologie GmbH

Extensive areas of application for plasma heads

The application of silicate and silicone thin layers via steam produces transparent layer thicknesses of a few nanometers, which cover a very wide range of applications: the application of hydrophilic or hydrophobic layers as well as barrier, adhesive or non-stick layer properties on paper, films and almost all conceivable surfaces .

Specific applications currently include coating glass or ceramics (note: six to seven times the adhesion strength), non-stick coatings on production rollers or biocidal coatings for a wide range of applications (such as anti-fouling for roofs, facades and ship hulls) and eliminating germs in hospitals , doctor's offices, public toilets, etc. The Inocon technology is by far the most efficient technology on the market for replacing the currently common layers using PVD (physical vacuum-based vapor deposition) and CVD (chemical vacuum-based vapor deposition) with atmospherically applied layers.

The layers require comparatively very low investments with at least equivalent properties and can also be integrated into automated processes. Since work can be carried out at atmospheric pressure, vacuum chambers are not necessary, which enables shorter throughput times and the coating of larger workpieces.

Large variety of parts, small batch sizes

The large number of application areas brings with it diverse and different requirements for the individual systems, which are often integrated into fully automatic systems. The resulting small quantities and high part variance lead to enormous production costs in the production of the required components. For this reason, owner Dr. Fritz Pesendorfer opened the new EVO-tech GmbH production facility in Schörfling am Attersee at the beginning of February. “I was surprised that such an innovative company produces 3D printers here in Upper Austria. What was particularly interesting to me was the wide variety of materials, such as the high-temperature filament or the UV-resistant filament. Until now, these missing properties have prevented us from using additive manufacturing,” says Dr. Pesendorfer.

Shortly afterwards, Inocon Technology GmbH defined the first test application. A protective cover on the plasma head, consisting of three screwable parts, should be additively manufactured. In addition to high accuracy, temperature resistance and electrical dielectric strength were crucial criteria for the use of additive manufacturing in the small series production of these parts. “I was surprised that PPS can already be processed additively. However, I was even more impressed by the savings potential of 90% compared to machining production,” says Pesendorfer.

The reason for the cost savings is clear. During machining, the three components have to be milled out of 2.3 kg of raw material, with 85% of the material ending up in waste. With additive manufacturing, only the material that is needed is applied. In addition, the additive manufacturing system from EVO-tech runs unmanned and, due to the low acquisition costs, a significantly lower hourly rate than with a milling machine, which leads to significantly lower unit costs. “By being able to integrate honeycomb structures into our components, the 3D printer allows us to reduce the component weight by 50%, which has enormous advantages for our moving axes,” says designer Markus Rotter.

High potential for the future

The possible applications at Inocon are far from exhausted.

Due to the high dielectric strength of the PPS from EVO-tech, electronic insulation components made of Peek should soon be replaced by printed PPS components in order to reduce production costs and increase flexibility in this area too. In addition, the company management sees high potential for the future, especially in the production of assembly aids and the manufacture of individual parts.