How Incus Cuts Production Costs by using Motion Analysis

In this Use Case Motion Analysis meets metal 3D printing. Learn how Austrian metal 3D printer manufacturer Incus GmbH seamlessly integrated principia MBS into their product development process. By incorporating principia MBS within their CAD system, Onshape, Incus achieved significant time and cost savings. The application of Multibody Dynamics Simulation enabled Incus to precisely design and dimension critical components for their advanced metal 3D printer, the Hammer Pro40. This precision led to reduced material usage and substantial savings on production costs. Looking ahead, Incus sees Motion Analysis as a key tool for optimizing production machinery, ensuring they stay competitive in their market.  

Incus and the Novel Approach of Metal 3D Printing

Founded in Vienna, end of 2019, Incus offers an innovative solution for the additive manufacturing of metal components with its Lithography-based Metal Manufacturing (LMM) process. The technology enables unrivaled flexibility in the production of parts with high geometric complexity, outstanding surface quality and excellent mechanical properties. 

Through exposure with high-resolution projectors, the Incus metal printers of the Hammer series produce green parts from metal-filled, photoreactive feedstocks. This process results in highly precise and mechanically stable green parts. The parts derive their final metallic strength and mechanical properties through a subsequent debinding and sintering process. 

Incus’ LMM technology enables precise, high-quality production of complex parts for a wide range of industrial applications. These include aerospace, automotive, medical and dental, electronics, jewelry and tooling. 

3D printed parts by Incus LMM technology

The Hammer Pro40 – The New Generation of Metal 3D Printers

The product in focus for this Use Case is the Hammer Pro40, a new generation of metal 3D printers developed and built by Incus. The Hammer Pro40 is the second 3D printer from Incus, developed for mass production. A high throughput 3D printer for industrial requirements that enables automatic and continuous production of metal parts with Incus’ proven additive manufacturing (AM) technology LMM. This 3D printer comes with highly increased throughput for large batches and mass production for both small and large parts. It features a broad range of printing materials, easy set-up with plug-and-play functionality, as well as the known surface quality and guaranteed consistent results. Thereby, customers of Incus profit from optimized cycle times by outstanding printing accuracy and dimensional tolerances, resulting in less post processing effort. Furthermore, continuous printing alongside automatic reloading of feedstock shortens printing time tremendously.

Difficulties and Critical Aspects During the Current Product Development at Incus

The Hammer Pro40 described above represents a high-precision production machine. This machine must also consist of extremely precise components. These components must perform the most exact movements and operations during the printing process. Therefore, developing this machinery means to precisely calculate the inner, especially critical parts. In the following, we will focus on the pivoting arm and its critical aspects during both the development process at Incus as well as the customers usage. 

Identifying the Critical Parts and their Role in the Development Process

The prerequisite for the Hammer Pro40 was an automated system for feeding and removing material blocks and build jobs. Ultimately, the decision was made in favor of a feed and removal mechanism that performs a translational and rotational movement. This means that the pivoting arm feeds the two vertical axes through its movement. Whereby the left axis is relevant for the print job and the right axis for supplying the material block. 

The pivoting arm receives a fresh block of material from a material store located outside the central unit. The arm then positions the material exactly above the right-hand axis through a combination of rotation and translation. The build platform is placed on the axis by moving it vertically. Once a print job has been completed, the swivel arm can also remove the finished build platform. By means of a similar movement sequence the arm removes it from the left-hand axis and transports it out of the central unit. Finally, the arm puts the platform into a build job rack. 

As we see, the special property, concurrently the critical aspect, of the pivoting arm is the optimal synchronization of translation and rotation. Furthermore, the following constraints are associated with this component: 

  • the torque for rotational movement: space constraints limit Incus to one motor size and therefore to one maximum motor torque -> the usage of a gearbox should be avoided due to cost and space reasons
  • the deflection of the pivoting arm, and  
  • the stiffness of the entire assembly 
Simulation model of pivoting arm on right axis with servo motor for synchronization of translation and rotation during providing and removing material block

Determinig Critical Steps during the Actual Print Job

In addition, there are some critical steps Incus must be aware of during the actual print job. First, there is the positioning accuracy. Here, the overall accuracy is made up of the positioning accuracy of the linear movement and the rotary movement of the pivoting arm. This should be at the maximum approximately +/-0.1° and +/-0.1mm. Otherwise the positioning pins in the platforms will no longer hit the hole in the vertical axis. Second, you have to consider the movement curve as crucial. Here, Incus has to consider two main critical aspects. On the one hand, a collision when the blocks are removed from the vertical axes should be prevented. On the other hand, during removal, the pivoting arm must “thread” into the vertical axes. 

The Problem With the Current Product Development Process

At Incus Finite Element Analysis (FEA) was already an integral part of their product development process. Still, various programs and techniques were used for calculation and design of parts or components. In this case, for example, the drive torque was calculated by Incus or the drive manufacturer and verified by tests. The trajectory of movement was established by manipulating the assembly within the CAD software. Incus then employed FEA to validate the design’s compliance throughout. Consequently, Incus devoted considerable time to alternating between various tools and techniques. However, it remained uncertain whether the parameters had been accurately assessed. This further resulted in multiple tests and iterative cycles. 

Launching principia MBS as the Seamless Integrated Solution at Incus

The initial contact between Incus and principia was made by one of the co-founders of principia. Incus’ CEO was impressed by the idea of incorporating Motion Analysis into the product development process for their new metal 3D printer, the Hammer Pro40. Consequently, he introduced principia’s Multibody Simulation (MBS) system to his Head of R&D, Manuel Grubhofer. This led to the launch of a collaborative project to test and evaluate the Multibody Dynamics software principia MBS. 

This partnership provided Incus with an opportunity to explore the method of Multibody Dynamics in a real-world setting, utilizing their own operational environment. For the ongoing development of their MBS technology principia extremely valued receiving genuine feedback based on actual use. 

Unlocking Potential: Optimizing Product Development Through principia MBS

The integration of principia MBS into Incus’ operations was streamlined and efficient. Thanks to their use of Onshape as their CAD software. This compatibility eliminated the need for exporting or importing files. Further, allowing Incus for immediate updates to be reflected across platforms. Moreover, the capability to execute simulations quickly facilitated a reduction in the number of iterations required. For Incus, this evolved at significant time savings early in the software integration process. 

Continuing with this Use Case, we will focus on the cost savings achieved in the product development process using principia MBS. This approach not only sped up development times. It also contributed to cost efficiency by minimizing the resources typically consumed in repeated testing and manual adjustments. The reduction in iterative cycles and quicker validation of design concepts ultimately lowers the overall expenditure in the development phase. Making principia MBS a cost-effective solution for Incus. 

The Simulation Results

Simulation result of the peak load and the average loads of the torque of the pivoting arm

principia MBS imported all initial information like forces, constraints, sensors, etc. directly from the CAD designs in Onshape. Therefore, only two iteration cycles were necessary to achieve the final output. The simulation results provided a solid foundation for accurately calculating and dimensioning the required motor torque and the movement of the overall assembly. This allowed Incus to confidently ensure the correctness of the component designs. The calculations were completed quickly. No additional trials or tests were required. In this case, the use of Multibody Dynamics led to significant time and cost savings. The results from the Motion Analysis enabled Incus to optimally design the drives, ensuring they were neither oversized nor undersized. Incus was able to determine the actual peak and average loads for different scenarios. Additionally, the trajectories were confirmed to be free of collisions and ready for implementation. Based on these simulation results, Incus could confirm that the construction could be realized with the selected drives and their controllers, as their sizing was proven correct. 

The Results in Terms of Production Costs

After applying Motion Analysis, the part layout of the pivoting arm in the initial design was optimized. Leading to several secondary benefits. By ensuring that components were not oversized, Incus achieved significant material savings. This reduction in material usage also meant that less mass needed to be moved within the assembly. What further led to an improvement in operational efficiency. 

Financially, this optimization translated to savings of approximately € 1,000 per unit in the design of the drive and controller assembly, including material costs. However, these savings were offset by several upfront costs: 

Training of Incus Staff – the training required for Incus staff to effectively use the new system amounted to € 450 for about three hours 

Simulation Time – running the simulation, including the iteration cycles, took about one hour and cost € 150 

License for principia MBS – the annual license fee for the principia MBS app was approximately € 5,000 

Considering the production of 20 machines per year, the net cost savings, considering all factors, amounted to about € 14,400 per year. This calculation highlights the economic benefits of incorporating advanced simulation tools like principia MBS into the design and manufacturing process. Despite the initial costs associated with training and licensing. 

“What I like about principia is the seamless integration into our CAD system Onshape and the possibility to analyze all quantities, cutting forces, values of force elements, and so on in the post-processing. Also, excellent and fast support of the guys made co-working extremely comfortable for us at Incus.” Manuel Grubhofer, Head of R&D Engineering, Incus GmbH 

The Joint Future Path for Incus and Motion Analysis

With their first application of Motion Analysis Incus was able to record significant time and cost savings. Combined with further findings Incus gained, the company was endorsed in their decision on further application of Multibody Dynamics. However, despite the potential advantages, Incus recognized that, at present, the investment in Multibody Dynamics software might outweigh the immediate added value. This decision was influenced by the fact that Incus’ components could still be dimensioned using conventional methods like FEA. 

As a company that thrives on innovation in a rapidly expanding market, Incus remains committed to advancing the development of their 3D printers. As both product demands and the complexity of production machinery continue to evolve, Motion Analysis emerges as a crucial topic for Incus’ future endeavors. The insights gained from the described project have underscored the importance and potential of this technology. Incus sees Motion Analysis as crucial for optimizing design processes and enhancing product performance. As such, Motion Analysis is poised to remain a focal point for Incus as they continue to innovate and grow within their industry. 

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