Formlabs has filed a patent for a powder delivery apparatus that consistently moves powder from a hopper into a trough for use in an additive fabrication system. The apparatus includes a powder conveyor, such as a screw conveyor, that transfers the powder to the trough. This technique does not require complex control systems and allows for precise control of the amount of powder delivered. GlobalData’s report on Formlabs gives a 360-degree view of the company including its patenting strategy. Buy the report here.
According to GlobalData’s company profile on Formlabs, additive manufacturing monitoring sensors was a key innovation area identified from patents. Formlabs's grant share as of September 2023 was 43%. Grant share is based on the ratio of number of grants to total number of patents.
Powder delivery apparatus for additive fabrication system
A recently filed patent (Publication Number: US20230311419A1) describes a powder delivery apparatus for an additive fabrication system. The apparatus includes a hopper to hold the powder and a trough adjacent to the build area of the system to receive the powder from the hopper. A powder conveyor is arranged within the hopper to convey the powder into the trough.
The patent claims also describe the use of an electro-optical sensor affixed to the interior side of the trough to produce an optical sensing path across opposing sides of the trough. This sensor configuration helps in measuring the level of powder in the trough. The hopper is equipped with an agitating device that rotates to distribute the powder within the hopper.
Additionally, the powder delivery apparatus includes a regulating device to deliver the powder from the trough to the build area of the additive fabrication system. The apparatus also incorporates at least one processor to measure the level of powder in the trough by measuring the force applied to the regulating device during its motion through the trough. A force sensor is used to measure the resistance force applied to the regulating device, and the processor calculates the level of powder based on the sensor readings.
Furthermore, the patent claims describe a recoater within the powder delivery apparatus that encloses a powder volume between two segments, which can be rollers or blades. A powder transfer mechanism, such as a screw feed device, vacuum feed device, or positive pressure feed device, moves the powder from the hopper to the recoater. A sensor is used to measure the amount of volume enclosed between the two segments of the recoater. This sensor can be a weight sensor positioned below the recoater, a beam-break style sensor placed across the powder volume, or a distance measuring sensor placed above the powder volume.
Overall, this patent describes various configurations and components of a powder delivery apparatus for an additive fabrication system. The apparatus aims to improve the efficiency and accuracy of powder delivery, ensuring precise control over the powder level and distribution within the system.