Solukon will publicly present the software for automatic depowdering at Formnext 2022. By commercialising the software as a Solukon product, the Augsburg-based company is underpinning its pioneering role in the industrialisation of automatic powder removal. Furthermore, with the SPR-Pathfinder®, Solukon is making the Digital Twin of a component usable in post-processing for the first time.

With the increasingly complex applications in powder-based 3D printing, the demands on industrial powder removal are growing. After presenting the Digital Factory Tool, a sensor and interface kit for quality assurance and automation integration last year, Solukon 2022 is taking the next step. The Augsburg-based company is launching the SPR-Pathfinder® depowdering software.

Based on the CAD file of the construction job, the SPR-Pathfinder® calculates the ideal movement sequence in the Solukon system to remove excess powder from complex internal structures. The calculations of the SPR-Pathfinder® are based on a fluid simulation that analyses the digital twin of the component. The individually calculated motion sequence is then read in by the Solukon system, which follows the programmed paths. In this way, even the most complex components become clean - as quickly as possible and without human programming effort. "Unlike conventional manufacturing processes, 3D printing works with the digital twin of the component. Until now, however, this only applied to the printing itself. With the SPR-Pathfinder®, we are now making the digital twin of the component also usable during de-powdering. In this way, we ensure that the potential of the digital twin is also fully exploited in post-processing," says Andreas Hartmann, CEO/CTO of Solukon.
The SPR-Pathfinder® can be used to calculate the cleaning sequence of a complete construction job.
Licence of award-winning depowdering software goes to experienced depowdering pioneer

In 2018, the software developed by Siemens Technology in a joint project with Solukon was presented to the public for the first time under the name SiDAM. The idea for the software came from Dr Christoph Kiener, Principal Key Expert Functional Design for Manufacturing at Siemens Technology. "Vibration-excited powder behaves almost like a liquid when it spills. That's why we quickly realised that we could achieve our goal in the software with path identification and particle and fluid simulation," says Kiener. The publication had already caused quite a stir when Solukon and Siemens received the TCT Postprocessing Award 2019 for the software in combination with a Solukon SFM-AT800-S.
The SPR-Pathfinder® calculations are based on fluid simulation.

Until recently, the software prototype was only available to selected development partners of Siemens and Solukon. Now Solukon has acquired exclusive rights to the software, developed it into a Solukon product and is now launching it on the AM market under the new name SPR-Pathfinder® so that Solukon customers can purchase licences for the first time. "It is a logical step for us to exclusively license the de-powdering software to Solukon and thus enable the pioneer in the field of industrial de-powdering to offer the market an even more powerful product," says Dr Georg Bodammer, Senior Venture Director at Siemens Technology Accelerator. "This way, customers get everything from a single source: both the market-leading de-powdering system and the exclusive, intelligent software."

In naming the product, Solukon is deliberately focusing on an extension of the established Smart Powder Recuperation de-powdering technology SPR®. SPR® basically comprises automated pivoting around two axes as well as targeted vibration excitation (vibration) in a protected atmosphere. The algorithm-based SPR-Pathfinder® determines the ideal motion sequence for the most complex geometries and thus finds the best way to completely discharge the powder.
SPR-Pathfinder® software now available

As an exclusive Solukon product, the SPR-Pathfinder® is only compatible with Solukon powder removal systems. Currently, the software runs on the SFM-AT800-S and SFM-AT1000-S models - starting with serial number 1 of the respective models. "It is very important to us that the broadest possible customer base can benefit from our software right from the market launch," says Andreas Hartmann, CEO and CTO of Solukon. In the future, the software will also be compatible with other models, such as the SFM-AT350.

SPR-Pathfinder® runs as on-premise software, i.e. on our company's own end devices (PC or notebook), not in the cloud. A licence is permanently bound to an end device and is always valid for the current version at the time of purchase.

In addition, interested Solukon customers have the opportunity to test the SPR-Pathfinder® free of charge and without obligation. Interested parties can register for the 30-day trial version via the Solukon website.
De-powdering software already validated by pilot customers

Before the market launch, Solukon had the software thoroughly tested by a number of well-known pilot customers, including Siemens Energy from Berlin, which has been using the SiDAM or SPR-Pathfinder® software for some time now as part of a development cooperation.

Siemens Energy is one of the world's leading energy technology companies. The company works together with its customers and partners on the energy systems of the future and thus supports the transition to a more sustainable world. The portfolio of the globally active company includes conventional and renewable energy technology, for example gas and steam turbines, hydrogen-powered hybrid power plants, generators and transformers. The AM team in Berlin mass-produces hot gas components using 3D printing processes and has been using a Solukon SFM-AT800-S for de-powdering for a good two and a half years. "With the SPR-Pathfinder® we clean in series without any manual programming effort. The components are guaranteed to be clean and this guarantee in turn gives us complete freedom in component design. In addition, we save a lot of time, which in turn is available for other value-adding activities in the manufacturing process," says Julius Schurb, Project Manager IDEA (Industrialisation of Digital Engineering and Additive Manufacturing) at Siemens Energy.

The use case at Siemens Energy is also part of the brand new SPR-Pathfinder® product video, which explains the process of intelligent depowdering.
Sequence of intelligent depowdering with the SPR-Pathfinder®.

Intelligent de-powdering with the SPR-Pathfinder® always follows the same procedure. 1:

1. uploading the file into the SPR-Pathfinder®.

The user uploads the CAD file of the component in STL format via drag-and-drop or via file browser.

2. set calculation parameters

These include, for example, information on the material and desired holding times in the individual directions of movement.

3. determine the storage location of the file

The user can save the depowdering sequence to be calculated locally or on an external storage medium (e.g. USB stick).

4. start calculation

The calculation time varies depending on the computing power of the encoder and the complexity of the component.

5. transfer cleaning programme to the Solukon system

The individual cleaning programme can be fed into the Solukon system via USB stick or OPC UA (optional on request).


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