Regarding the topic additive manufacturing, often referred to as 3D printing, a constantly growing range of laboratory equipment is available. Here, various production methods can be used by specialized and hybrid machines.
In addition to the actual printing technology various peripheral devices are available for the pre-and post-treatment of printing samples. The printing tests of the stages 1 and 2 can be performed either in our laboratory under UV-protective conditions, or in a climate laboratory with additional environmental control.
For small amounts of fluid and substrate printability testers for all common printing methods are available at the IDD. These machines can perform first material tests and conclusions on the printability and film formation can be drawn. In addition, machine and printing form parameters can be obtained in a small scale, which can be transferred to the lab-scale machines.
The inkjet printing system DMP-2831 is a drop on demand system and it is used for printability tests on various substrates. The printing parameters can be adjustment to the properties of the used fluid and the generated droplets can be analyzed with an integrated camera system.
- Printing format: A4
- Substrate thickness: up to 50 mm
- Resolution: 200 – 5000 dpi
- Temperature: up to 60°C
The superproofer is a gravure printability tester with excellent register accuracy of about +- 10 µm. This is possible via a gear concept using a single motor drive. Printing can be done on flexible substrates like foil and paper or on rigid substrates like glass and silicon wafers. The transportation of the substrate is shuttle based. Printing forms are made in sleeve technology and can be manufactured in different gravure technologies. The fluid and substrate consumption is very low. The parameters affecting the printing quality like doctoring force, doctoring angle, impression force and printing speed can be varied in a wide range.
- Format: 150 mm x 50 mm (L x W)
- Print speed: 0,3 – 3,5 m/s
- Printing force: up to16 N/mm
- Doctoring force: up to 2 N/mm
- Register accuracy: < 10 µm
- Substrates: Foils, glas, silicon wafers, paper, cardboard, etc…
The IGT F1 is a printability tester for flexographic printing on flexible and bending resistant materials. For the investigations anilox rollers with different cell volumes and screen frequencies are available. All common types of printing plate can be used.
- Substrates: paper, paperboard, foil, silicon wafers, glass
- Printing speed: 0.2 – 1.5 m/s
- Printing width: up to 40 mm
- Printing length: up to 530 mm
- Printing force: 10 – 500 N
The IGT G1-5 is a gravure printing machine for small substrates. A gravure cylinder performs its rolling motion on a flat substrate carrier. This concept allows the imprinting of rigid substrate materials with thicknesses up to 4 mm. The printing speed is adjustable to 5 different and the printing force to 18 different levels.
- Printing speed: 0,2 – 1,0 m/s
- Printing force: 100 – 1000 N
- Format: 45 x 200 mm
The AIC2-5 is a printing proofer for offset to test the printability for flexible substrates such as foils or papers. On this device both convetionell offset-inks and UV-inks can be used.
- Printing speed: 0,2 – 5 m/s
- Substrate thickness: < 4 mm
- Printing force: 50 – 1000 N
With this Printability Tester different substrates such as film or paper can be printed. The device has a flat printing plate, which reproduces the image by means of a mobile carriage. The carriage can be equipped with a gravure printing or a flexographic printing attachment. The doctor blade angle, the pressure of the doctor blade and the pressure roller can be changed. The speed is adjustable by a potentiometer in 10 steps.
- Printing speed: 0,1 – 0,8 m/s
- Format: 220 x 130 mm
- Amount of Fluid: 1 – 2 g
With this hand printing device different substrates can be printed quickly and economically on the basis of flexographic printing. Substrates with the length of 50 to 70 cm can be coated with the fluid application of 2 to 3 ml. The pressure between anilox roller and rubber roller can be adjusted by two micrometer screws.
Lab-Scale Printing Machines
For printing tests on substrates in the range of DIN A4 the IDD uses lab-scale printing machines. In contrast to the printability testers the laboratory printing machines are distinguished with a more elaborate design. They often contain components that are also used for production machines, such as a sheet conveyance. In some machines an operation under continuous printing conditions is possible. With these machines whole areas and even complicated structures can be printed, which enables the production of demonstrators.
The FLP-21 is a Flexographic lab-size printing machine for printing on different substrates in the format of DIN A4. Miscellaneous printing fluids, substrates and printing plate materials are suitable.
- Substrates: paper, paperboard, foil
- Printing speed: up to 1.5 m/s
- Printing width: up to 210 mm
- Printing length: up to 300 mm
- Anilox roller: 60 – 500 L/cm (60°)
The Pad-Printing machine TPU 250 from Teca-Print AG (sponsored by Franz Binder GmbH & Co. Elektrische Bauelemente KG) with an open ink system is suitable for printing on curved and uneven surfaces. A flexible intermediate pad transfers the ink from the printing nips of the flat printing plate and transfers it to the object to be printed, which is positioned on the printing table. The printing speed can be controlled. The pressure force for ink pick-up and delivery is regulated by an electronic control.
- Drive: pneumatic
- Control: electronic
- Size of printing image: max. Ø 80 mm
- Size of cliché table: 250 x 100 mm²
- Ink application: single- or multiple printing
- Procedure method: single cycle or endurance run
- Printing performance „n“: infinitely variable by pneumatic throttles
- Maximum n/h: 1400 (open system)
- Printing force: 680 N
The FT150 gives opportunity to print functional materials using two different printing techniques. The printing format can be as large as 150mm x 300mm for both printing techniques. The FT150 is the only printing press worldwide that is able to print under saturated solvent atmosphere, thus allowing to directly influence the fluid deposition of the printed material. The process is based on a manual sheet-to-sheet shuttle system, which can be used with either flexible or rigid substrates, such as glass or silicon wafers. For process engineering the fluid can be dosed directly on the doctor blade (approximately 2ml), or by dosing 40ml into the ink reservoir.
- Printing under solvent atmosphere
- Ethylene glycol
- Temperature adjustable printing cylinders ranging from -15°C to 50°C
- Printing format: 300mm x 150mm
- Printing speed: 0,3m/s – 3m/s
- Printing on flexible and rigid substrates
- Printing techniques: gravure- and flexographic
- Register accuracy: < 100µm
The IDD pad-printing machine is basically build up on an industrial machine. It is improved and developed for the investigation of the influence factors on the indirect gravure printing process. The high-precision Kollmorgen servo-drives in combination with a National Instruments cRIO-System and LabVIEW Software with a graphical user interface enable a high repeat accuracy and a wide range of different printing rates. Additionally the substrate force, printing plate force, printing velocity (speed) can be measured. The IDD pad-printing machine can be used for printability tests on various substrates with different shapes and thicknesses. In addition of printing force control on the vacuum table, other printing parameters such as velocity, printing time, ink-absorbing time from the cliché and force can be controlled. The servo-drives can be adjusted for working in linear speed or user defined curve speeds (non-linearity velocities).
- Size of cliché table: 100 x 210 mm
- Size of the print image: max. Ø 80mm
- Drive: Electromechanical
- Maximum printing force on substrate: 980 N
- Vertical cylinder speed: linear and non-linear 660 mm/s
- Horizontal cylinder speed: Linear and non-linear 270 mm/s
- Adjustable Vacuum Table
The screen printing machine of the K15 series is designed for printing on flat materials with medium to high viscosity fluids. The entire screen frame mounting is translational (x, y) and rotative adjustable. Other parameters such as squeegee angle, squeegee pressure and printing speed can be varied.
- Printing speed: 0.1 – 1.0 m/s
- Printable face: 120 x 120 mm
The Rotaprint R38 is a one-color offset printing machine with a short colour deck. The inking and dampening unit is built in a way to avoid sweeping during the printing process. Because of the oscillation of the ink the canal bash is almost invisible. The printing machine can be used for conventional offset inks. A powder pollinator is integrated.
- Maximal paper size: 356 x 510 mm
- Minimal paper size: 148 x 105 mm
- Grammage: 30 – 350 g/m²
- Maximal printable area: 331 x 485 mm
Inline Printing Presses
The third level of the printing laboratory covers the industrial production of printing products using all conventional printing processes. If printing tests have been successful with printability testing machines and laboratory printing machines (stages 1 and 2), such tests can be run in an inline-process.
In the industry the Gallus RCS 330 is mainly used for label printing. This especially for printed functionalities configured printing press is worldwide unique because of the following features. All included printing processes (flexography, gravure, screen, offset and ink jet) can be used contemporaneous and easily changed in its order. Thereby – apart from the differentiation of conventional and waterless offset printing – 325 different machine configurations are possible. Another degree of freedom is given by the possibility of printing different colors or materials. An „empty unit“ after every printing unit offers in addition to the serial UV-curing units the possibility of a prior hot air / IR curing without changing the web track.
- Total length: 15 m
- Total mass: 26,6 t
- Real power: 50 kW
- Format of printing processes: 18 Zoll (possible 12 – 24 Zoll)
- Web width: 160 – 330 mm
- Substrate thickness: 10 – 400 μm
- Max. web speed: 160 m/min
- Drive technology: Servo direct drives for all printing cylinders
- Performance UV-curing system: 200 W/cm
- Performance Hot air / IR-curing module: 24 kW
- Flexography unit: Use of printing plates and sleeve-technique
- Offset printing unit: Conventional and waterless offset printing
- Screen printing unit: Rotary screen printing
- Gravure printing unit: Rotogravure
- Ink Jet: Additional installed unit
For a successful production of printing products there are, apart from the printing process itself, additional steps before and after the printing needed. For the optimization of the wettability different pretreatment methods are available. The printed sheets could be aligned on various shakers and cut afterwards. A dryer equipped with all established methods allows the hardening of various fluid types. For the generation of reference films a spin-coater is available.
In the Cressington Sputter Coater 108 Auto / SE samples up to 150 mm in diameter can be coated. A low-voltage plasma source with magnetic shielding is used to protect the samples from thermal influences. Thicknesses from 0 to 100 nm can be generated. Materials as gold and silver are available at the IDD. When required, other materials such as platinum, copper or mixtures of materials can be processed. The plasma current can be selected between 0 and 40 mA. Coating takes place under an argon atmosphere, the pressure can be chosen between 0.01 and 0.2 mbar. The sample distance can be adjusted. By the use of a mask structured layers can be generated.
To monitor the layer thickness, a thickness monitoring unit MTM 10 is connected to the Sputter Coater.
The spin-coating process is a deposition technique for liquids driven by rotation of a planar substrate. The thickness of the wet film depends on the fluid viscosity and the rotation speed, which is typically in the range of 500rpm to 4000rpm. In this way a precisely defined film with a thickness down to a few nanometers can be applied. The manual spin-coater POLOS MCD200-NPP (APT) is equipped with a microprocessor, a memory for max. 50 recipes, a range of rotation speed from 1rpm to 10,000rpm and can handle substrates up to 260mm of diameter. Different vacuum holders are available for foils and rigid substrates like glass or silicon sheets.
The corona and plasma system is used to pretreat sheets to improve the adhesion properties (increasing the surface energy) of polymeric films and foils before printing takes place. It can handle substrates up to a width of 30 cm
Furthermore, an AFS G05 Plasma Torch is available for plasma treatment of smaller substrates. It can also be operated separately from the corona system.
The drying system consists of a combination of a hot air and IR drying unit and a UV-curing unit. Each unit can be used separately for hot air and IR drying and UV-curing purposes or in a combination of each other
Novacentrix PulseForge is a lab-scale tool for photonic curing and sintering. Photonic pulse treatments enable sintering of printed metal layers on low-temperature substrates as foils. The first PulseForge 1200 in Europe was installed at TU Darmstadt in 2013.
- Maximum energy delivered = 21 J/cm²
- Maximum process speed = 30 m/min
- Maximum area per sample = 300 x 150 mm
- Emission spectrum = 200-1.500 nm
- Pulse length range = 25-10.000 µs
Oven with air circulation for coated materials. Turbulent air circulation produces good and constant heat transfer onto the coated layers in the drying chamber. A part of the air flow is continuously led away by an additional ventilator. Occurring low pressure feeds the chamber with new air. Thus, the vapor-air mixture is always under the explosion limit.
- Inside dimensions: 600/900/600 mm B/H/T
- Carrying capacity: 150kg
- Minimal exhaust air flow rate: 138 m³/h
- Reduced exhaust air flow rate: 35 m³/h
- Entire vapor space: 0,502 m³
- Nominal temperature : 250 C°
- Temperature limit: 350 C°
The automatic film applicator can produce fluid films with different coating methods. These fluid films are applied as reference layers, for material characterization or for the fabrication of devices. Coating with fluids on flexible foils, paper or rigid substrates like metal or glass sheets is possible. The coating speed is adjustable between 0,005 and 0,5 m/s, a hot plate for temperature control (up to 150°C) or drying is integrated.
The STR4 of the company Baumann Maschinenbau Solms is usable in left- and right-hand lay. It serves for aligning and jogging of printed sheets by an easy operation. The jogging system is easy adjustable with an unbalanced weight. The table’s tilting angle is infinitely variable.
- Format: 740 x 1080 mm
- Height min./max.: 700 / 870 mm
- Weight: 68 mm
The jogger 43 x 43 ST of the company MüRo is designed for left- and right-hand lay and is usable for aligning and jogging of printed sheets by an easy operation. The jogging system is adjustable by a unbalanced mass and the speed of the actuator. The table’s tilting angle is infinitely variable.
- Format: 430 x 430 mm
- Height min./max.: 750 / 950 mm
- Weight: 36 kg
The half-automated vacuum plasma tool Nano (Diener Electronic) is suitable to activate, clean and etch different kinds of substrates. In the vacuum chamber that accommodates substrates up to DIN A4 a high-voltage supply with a frequency of 40kHz and a power of max. 1000W generates a plasma using oxygen, nitrogen or argon. The working pressure is typically of the order of 0.4mbar. Choosing appropriate parameters the plasma increases the wettability of an ink on the substrate for subsequent printing steps. Organic contaminations are almost completely removed by the plasma.
This „cold“ illumination source serves for exposing small areas with high intensive UV-A radiation. The Spotlight is used to polymerize UV-curing inks on printing samples produced with printability testing machines and for the UV-measuring cell of the HAAKE MARS rheometer.
• Type of radiation: UV-A
• Irradiation power: up to 15,000 mW/cm³
The laser control unit is specially produced by KBA-Metronic for IDD. The special feature of the system is that two different types of lasers are inserted in a box and operated by a control system. The laser system F-9020 has a fiber laser and can mainly be used for the treatment (cutting, color change) of metals. The CO2 laser control unit built in the system K-1030 SHS is mostly used for structuring and processing other types of organic materials and coated metals.
- Max. power of the fiber laser: 20 Watt.
- Max. power of the CO2 laser: 30 Watt.
- Max. working surface: 100×100 mm.