Surface finishing of 3D objects is an important process in industrial manufacturing.

Inkjet printing (non-contact, digital, mask less) can replace standard analogue printing techniques and directly print personalized graphics, functional coatings and even ‘printed electronics’ onto 3D surfaces. Ideal machines for such ‘direct to shape’ DTS printing are combinations of industrial inkjet printheads with robots. Wherever possible the present applications use the combination of static printhead & robot-moved objects. To enable printing onto large and heavy objects it is necessary to combine ‘robot-moved printhead and static object’. While this approach opens many new application areas the accelerated motion of the printhead results in key technical challenges to achieve high printing speed, precision, and reliability.

The DTS-project addresses these key technical issues with the complementary capabilities of the three partners. The iPrint Institute focuses on high distance jetting and printing under accelerated motion of the printhead, using their specifically developed ink-system with dynamic pressure control. Polytype owns specific image processing and correction software and electronics as well as a new device for pitch error correction, and MABI’s robots excel in path control that is essential for inkjet printing.

A DTS demonstrator will be built at the iPrint Center combining the above features from Polytype with a robot from MABI (MAX-100-2.25-P). Sequential targets are the printing of coatings onto flat objects, followed by multi-color graphics onto flat and 3D (automotive) objects, with improved placement and stitching errors.

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