Hüfingen is a small town on the south-western edge of Germany in the Black Forest. Where others go on holiday, AlfaMerit tinkers with measurement systems, apheresis machines and devices for geotagging that are sold on the international market. Daniel Grüter is the technical director here and in spring 2020 received a request from the neighbouring Furtwangen University of Applied Sciences to develop a hyperthermia device.

Innovative design for innovative technology

So the task was to find a suitable housing for the generator. These are available ready-made, for example in 19-inch format. But the look of these ready-made housings does not suit an innovative device that is supposed to be something special, says Grüter. "An off-the-shelf enclosure just looks like an off-the-shelf enclosure." With the first CAD design, it was still completely open which production process would be used to realise it. The challenge was now to realise this design. "Our first idea was to produce the component additively with laser sintering technology," Grüter smiles. In the calculation, however, the price of the housing was in the four-digit euro range. In addition, there were costs for complex post-processing. A better solution had to be found. The thoughts turned to filament printing. Since the housing is relatively large, measuring 370 x 270 x 140 mm, 90% of the commercially available printers were ruled out.

Through cooperation with a regional service provider, contact was made with innovatiQ. The Swabian Grüter and the Munich 3D printer manufacturers quickly found a connection. Even the first talks revealed a potential solution. The x500pro model has sufficiently large installation space and thus offers enough room for components in XXL format.

The first analysis of the CAD model by the innovatiQ team revealed a production time of 100 hours - not profitable in terms of the required production figure. Thanks to the Munich-based company's FDM technology, the manufacturing costs could be reduced to only ¼ of those of laser sintering. A great improvement, but not yet sufficient for Daniel Grüter's target. After the application engineers from innovatiQ pointed out that the geometry of the housing was anything but optimal for this manufacturing process, it was decided to work out constructive adjustments to the component in a joint workshop with the development teams from AlfaMerit and innovatiQ. Together they developed

additive geometry adaptations
almost complete elimination of support structures
Adjustment of the pressure parameters

were worked out. Along the way, the workshop identified further components for 3D printing for other projects and adapted them for additive manufacturing. The result:

only 52 hours of production time in the FDM process
additional 30% material saving
additional 45% cost reduction

The age of additive manufacturing could begin with the commissioning of the new x500pro at AlfaMerit. The use of a special ABS industrial plastic made it possible for the housing to be very robust and withstand high loads. Finally, the finished raw part was painted and fitted with shiny aluminium panels. This gave it the appealing and high-quality look expected of a market innovation, the goal was achieved and a win-win situation was created.

Faster to market thanks to additive manufacturing

Two prototypes of the device are already in use, in medical practices in Berlin and Dresden. The time-to-market is much shorter, as many time-consuming processes such as prototyping and toolmaking are no longer necessary.

Daniel Grüter is very satisfied to have found the right production process and the right partner for entering additive manufacturing. He particularly appreciates the quality of service, which does not end with the delivery of the printer.

And Josua Bohnert of the innovatiQ team is pleased to have made his contribution to a pioneering device in medical technology!