At the ISH 2019, the world's leading trade fair for water, heating and air conditioning, GROHE presented two fittings manufactured by 3D metal printing as the first of the leading sanitary fittings brands in Europe. To do so, GROHE collaborated with TRUMPF to develop the 3D technology further – ushering in a new era in fittings' production, in which customisation and freedom in design play the starring roles. GROHE Icon 3D fittings are manufactured at the LIXIL EMENA production site in Hemer with the TruPrint 3000 in laser metal fusion (LMF) processes. As well as the fittings, additive manufacturing opens up completely new opportunities for GROHE in prototype production and tool manufacturing for zinc and plastic injection moulding for interior cooling channels.
The main challenge in developing customised and innovative fittings' designs was to preserve the quality for which GROHE is known worldwide and to implement it in a 3D metal print product. The focus was to maintain the water purity, meaning that the powder material used must comply with the drinking water ordinance and must be appropriately qualified for additive manufacturing. Furthermore, thermal deformation must be taken into consideration even before manufacturing. In addition, any post-processing that could be required must be reduced to a minimum due to the high surface requirements.
GROHE's design and development team has looked very closely at 3D metal printing for many years and has built up a great deal of expertise in the technology and material qualification. In January 2018, they finally decided on two of the TRUMPF TruPrint 3000 medium-format machines. To develop the bathroom fittings, they developed their own procedure with a specific formula for the metal powder qualified for the brand. GROHE acquired their own patents in view of the drinking water ordinance required.