TSN benefits for additive manufacturing operations

Time-sensitive networking (TSN) can help additive manufacturers (AM) combine high-speed precision operations with networking and advanced systems.

By Thomas Burke April 11, 2024
Courtesy: Shashin Kagaku, CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA)

Additive manufacturing insights

  • Additive manufacturing (AM) has evolved from prototyping to mainstream production, challenging traditional methods with high-precision motion control, enhancing productivity and reducing costs.
  • Integrating CC-Link IE TSN in Shashin Kagaku’s AM system facilitates multi-axis motion control, simplifies construction, reduces delivery times and boosts productivity significantly.

In recent years, additive manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing, has opened many production frontiers. Structures once regarded as being impossible to fabricate with traditional machining techniques have become commonplace. The original delicate parts formed by earlier AM technologies, suitable only for prototyping and laboratories, have now given way to methods that provide actual production parts. These are used in applications that can be as demanding as jet engine turbine blades.

Now that AM has moved into mainstream production lines, it has become subject to all the same pressures as its subtractive manufacturing cousin. Parts must meet stringent specifications and quality standards while being produced to meet aggressive schedules and cost targets. As a result, AM system manufacturers are under pressure to produce machines that continue to raise the bar on customer expectations as market forces intensify.

While material science has led the way in these advances, high precision motion control and the ability to combine this with all other machine functions has delivered significant competitive advantage for one AM machine manufacturer by adopting CC-Link IE TSN.

Shashin Kagaku is a Japanese manufacturer of AM systems that form high precision parts using a ceramics-based process. Their AM system uses aluminum oxide powder mixed with a resin to form a slurry that is cured under UV light. This is then used to build up parts layer by layer by using UV light to cure the photosensitive slurry into the required form. Finally, a kiln fires the parts, evaporating the resin and making them durable enough for real applications via sintering of the ceramic powder.

Shashin Kagaku is a Japanese manufacturer of AM systems that form high precision parts using a ceramics-based process.

Shashin Kagaku is a Japanese manufacturer of AM systems that form high precision parts using a ceramics-based process. Courtesy: Shaskin Kagaku, CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA)

This 3D printer can manufacture large-scale parts with dimensions exceeding 600 mm square and 300 mm deep, while maintaining manufacturing tolerances on the scale of thousandths of mms. To do this, extremely fine motion control of a variety of rotary and linear axes in an interpolated manner is required. These also need to operate at high speed to meet the necessary productivity targets.

The complete machine architecture extends beyond just the motion control aspects. Tight control of the UV digital light processing (DLP) exposure system must be coupled with the motion axes, while also integrating all other machine functions.

Leveraging TSN to improve additive manufacturing

Shashin Kagaku turned to CC-Link IE TSN, which is open industrial Ethernet that combines gigabit bandwidth with time-sensitive networking (TSN), to meet the demanding market requirements.

In this application, using TSN technology permits disparate types of network traffic to share a single network architecture by employing IEC/IEEE standards such as 802.1AS and Qbv. These help synchronize traffic flow across the network and regulate the priority of different traffic types. By leveraging TSN along with the industry leading gigabit bandwidth of CC-Link IE TSN, Shashin Kagaku were able to realize several key benefits.

The convergence of different network traffic on the same architecture allowed the complex, multi-axis, high-precision motion control system to be run on the same network as the rest of the system input/output (I/O). This delivered the tight integration between the motion control systems and the operation of the UV DLP exposure system. The maximum number of axes that could be handled by this system was up to 128, providing scope for even more advanced systems in the future.

The network’s gigabit bandwidth contributed to a component production time about ten times faster than Shashin Kagaku’s existing systems with a minimum motion loop closure time of 125 μs, improving productivity.

The network’s gigabit bandwidth contributed to a component production time about ten times faster than Shashin Kagaku’s existing systems with a minimum motion loop closure time of 125 μs, improving productivity. Courtesy: Shashin Kagaku, CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA)

The construction of the machine also could be simplified, as less wiring was required to construct the internal systems, leading to reduced construction time. This could result in shorter delivery times, reduced system cost and a more competitive product.

The network’s gigabit bandwidth contributed to a component production time about ten times faster than Shashin Kagaku’s existing systems. A minimum motion loop closure time of 125 μs could be achieved, allowing the company to offer a step change in productivity.

TSN’s ability to converge information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) traffic allowed a conventional industrial PC to be integrated into the setup without the need for dedicated hardware, further simplifying the machine and helping to reduce cost. This also provided an interface to external computer-aided design (CAD) systems to download designs, which can be converted into the motion programs, which control part forming.

The result was a productive AM machine that provided Shashin Kagaku a significant lead over its competition in a competitive marketplace. It’s customers also benefit from a significant increase in productivity with a cost-effective tool.


Author Bio: Thomas Burke is global strategic adviser for CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA). He is the founder of the OPC Foundation and spent much of his career developing software, hardware and firmware for industrial automation, including at Rockwell Automation. CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA) is a CFE Media and Technology content partner.