3D-printing of XXL molds for wine vats 

Two French companies, VLM Robotics and IREPA LASER, make use of additive manufacturing combined with numerical control to produce molds for the manufacturing of large parts. One of the end customers is Wine & Tools, a company that manufactures innovative as well as huge wine vats.

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Imagine a mold 2.60 meters high, 2.50 meters in diameter and about 300 kilograms. This is the XXL piece that IREPA LASER builds in its workshops in Illkirch-Graffenstaden, France. A mold intended to produce wine vats by rotational molding for Wine & Tools, a company specializing in innovative winemaking technologies. Among them a very large wine vat named OVOID by Flextank.

 

The huge mold for the wine vat is produced by robots. “Our machine is able to synchronize 18 axes and two effectors simultaneously on a particularly demanding process such as additive manufacturing”, Philippe Verlet, CEO of VLM Robotics, says.

“Many industrial sectors have mass customization needs and will be able to revisit their profession thanks to additive manufacturing”, Béatrice Rivalier, head of R&D and Economic Intelligence at VLM Robotics, adds. “This will also make it possible to relocate production to France and to open up new market segments on large unit parts.” Until recently, XXL molds mainly come from Italy or India.

Additive manufacturing will make it possible to relocate certain productions to France and open up new market segments.
Béatrice Rivalier, head of R&D and Economic Intelligence at VLM Robotics

Numerical control for additive manufacturing 

The other company involved is IREPA LASER, an industrial R&D company specializing in material processing and laser manufacturing processes and Siemens' partner for thermo-mechanical simulation. The company developed a hybrid laser for Directed Energy Deposition (DED) adapted to the manufacturing of large parts. DED is a complex 3D printing process, typically used to repair or add additional material to existing components.  

 

“We wanted to develop this new technology on an innovative machine before exploiting it to meet industrial needs,” says Jean-Paul Gaufillet, CEO of IREPA LASER. To do this, IREPA LASER chose the robot machine solution – whose cells are controlled as a conventional multi-axis machining center – proposed by VLM Robotics. “We are unfamiliar with the use of robots, so it allowed us to stay on our machine tool codes,” he adds.

Robotic agile cells

Robotic agile cells contain robots specialized on different processes such as machining, additive manufacturing, bonding or non-destructive testing. VLM Robotics has designed and built an XXL bi-robot cell and integrated CLAD metal additive manufacturing tools.

 

“XXL because it contains two robots, one of which is on a linear axis moving five meters long, a two-axis turner that can carry parts of more than three tons and a three-meter piece axis of useful stroke," explains Philippe Verlet. His company cooperated with Siemens as the company supports its customers to manufacture robotics for sectors as aeronautics, space, energy, construction, shipbuilding, and rail. In the new machine, there are about twenty axes controlled by a numerical control of type Sinumerik 840D sl, allowing control of several robots synchronously as well as many other technologies.

Simulation with CAD/CAM software 

The linear axes of Lucas Robotic System have been augmented by a backlash cancellation function. The gearboxes, supplied by REDEX Group, equip the turner developed by VLM Robotics. "This cell is piloted, programmed, and maintained as a machine tool," says Philippe Verlet. JANUS Engineering, another Siemens partner, also used CAD/CAM software NX to simulate processes and simulate the work of the two robots working simultaneously.

 

A data-driven manufacturing 4.0 cell, from computer-aided product design, to process simulation, through process instrumentation for real-time adaptation to monitoring via part control sensors (geometry and material health).

 

A hybrid machine that integrates effectors from the CLAD®-pw (powder and wire) additive manufacturing laser process developed by IREPA LASER. An innovative process that allows tailor-made manufacturing and achieves significant reductions in terms of manufacturing times and material yield.

“There is an aspect of customization as well as of sustainability, because we can perform repairs that would otherwise be impossible with current technologies,” says Jean-Paul Gaufillet. For new parts requiring precision, the powder process can be employed. Performance and yield are higher, and costs can be reduced. Yet even more importantly it improves lead times – especially in the case of material supply delays.

Expertise in laser process

“Additive manufacturing is a new technology,” says Béatrice Rivalier. It corresponds perfectly to the concept of tailor-made desired by Wine & Tools to make designs on demand and functionalize the mold in order to integrate the heating function necessary for rotational molding in the double skin of the mold.”

 

The new mold will allow Wine & Tools to create a dozen tanks with a personalized design to then be able to propose to the cellars to design their collections of tanks. A collective achievement that could, in the long term, open up new perspectives on the XXL metal workpieces market.  

Our machine is able to synchronize 18 axes and two effectors simultaneously on a particularly demanding process such as additive manufacturing.
Philippe Verlet, CEO of VLM Robotics

March 2022

VLM Robotics is a French company founded to enhance the development of factory 4.0 throughout agile robotic introduction. Its main goal is to give industrials mass personalized manufacturing equipment able to manage the complexity of specific single product each time This new market trend requires to be able to design and deliver new kind of advanced robots cells integrating multi-functions (machining, NDT, handling, bonding, additive manufacturing), multi-technologies, multi work spaces. Due to its mastering of the advanced robotic VLM Robotics (Siemens Solution Partner) acts as manufacturer of agile robot cells dedicated to its industrial customers.


VLM Robotics

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