PCE Automation, a Queen’s Award-winning division of the PCE GROUP, has installed a freeformer from ARBURG for industrial additive manufacturing to help support the research and development of a specialist medical device project in collaboration with the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Collaborative Partnerships

PCE Automation in Beccles, Suffolk, has formed a rich collaborative partnership with the School of Pharmacy at the UEA in a pioneering trial to develop high precision 3D printing of a wide range of pharmaceutical materials for personalised medicine manufacturing.

The partnership selected the freeformer when the university deemed that Fuse Deposition Modelling (or FDM) was not a viable development path for this application, where the freeformer was more versatile.

Freeformer delivering versatility

The freeformer cell can print almost any 3D design within the dimensions of the print area of 154mm x 134mm x 230 mm. The machine has allowed the company to additively manufacture smaller, repeatable components such as grippers, nests, clips, fastenings, buffers and stoppers, from standard materials such as ABS, PP (Polypropylene) and TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane).

These projects are being supervised by PCE Automation’s additive manufacturing lead Mark Rothon.

“We have recently utilised the freeformer to manufacture grippers used to assemble the intricate components of fire safety equipment,” says Mechanical Design Manager, Chris Booth. “We also use the freeformer to develop product nests for precise positioning of complex components.”

Broadening Horizons

The freeformer is also being used to make prototype products for a global leader in contact lens manufacture. The company expects these functional parts will extend to laboratory and ocular automation cells, each demanding very high levels of longevity, sterility and accuracy.

PCE Automation understands that when developing AM (additive manufactured) prototype parts, the product has to be robust and comparable in all aspects including matching quality to a part made using a conventional, high-volume process. The freeformer fulfils this requirement.

Qualifying New Materials

PCE Automation has qualified one new pharmaceutical grade polymer which is not FDM printable and have more in the pipeline. “Our Proof of Principle activities have demonstrated the freeformer’s capability of high precision printing directly from granulated pharmaceutical materials, eliminating the need for thermal pre-processing of the materials and improving the stability of the active pharmaceutical ingredients; opening limitless possibilities within the pharmaceutical and life sciences spheres,” says Mark.

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This article was written in whole by Will Sterling in conjunction with ARBURG.  Visit  https://www.industrio.co.uk/