ULT AG in Löbau specializes in extraction, filtration, and air drying technology. Alexander Jakschik is chairman of the board for marketing and finances. In this interview, he outlines AM process chains in 2030, and the often underestimated role of air treatment in them.Could you please provide us with a short introduction to ULT AG?
Alexander Jakschik: Sure. In 1994, my father founded the company literally in his garage, in order to develop special solutions in the area of exhaust air and filtration technology. Soon, he developed and built his own machines, convincing more and more customers, and he began to drive personnel growth. Today, we are a group of companies with 140 employees, about one fifth of them engineers. We develop, build, and assemble system solutions for air treatment. These solutions are based on three pillars: gas purification, extraction and filtration technology, as well as adsorption dryer technology. Additive manufacturing is one of the growth drivers.
Which part of the value chain of additive manufacturing does ULT cover?
Jakschik: All three pillars are important to AM processes. In preparation, our extraction, filtration, and dryer technology is in demand. In construction processes, the technology purifies the circulated inert gases nitrogen and argon. And in post-processing, air needs to be treated in the sense of work safety and product quality. Our extraction and filtration solutions remove any airborne pollutants resulting out of laser and soldering processes. Often, these are particles in the nanometer range. With a drop height of one meter, they would continue to float up to thirteen days if left without extraction. It is important to extract them at the source so they will not get a chance to disseminate and become a danger to both employees and product quality. We offer enabler technology for high process and product quality: without a continuous purification of the inert gases, laser melting could not work as a stable process. Without extraction and filtration, work safety cannot be guaranteed. And without drying, expensive powders would clump. Depending on preferences, we offer our systems as a single unit or develop and assemble solutions for the complete hall.
Do the various additive plastics and metal technologies all impose different requirements for extraction, filtration, and air drying technology?
Jakschik: Our motto is: Extraction. Filtration. Persistence. Persistence also means that we look targetedly for research cooperation so as to approach the markets of the future. This began in the laser industry, then it continued with battery production, and since 2000, we’ve been doing research in the AM sector. Here, we always tailor our solutions to individual processes and the material used. To do that, we cooperate with our customers and continue doing so until the process works in a stable manner. This is not at all trivial, since we need to pay attention to many parameters. It begins with the system’s dimensions, continues with the respective alloys or plastics, and stretches up to filter disposal. It is important to take great care when gathering the particles. Here, individual advice is best, as this will decide on how efficient air treatment is going to be. I count this as part of our core knowhow which we apply in three fields of AM: in technologies with adhesive agents and sand as well as in the additive processing of plastics, where we rid the air of particles and odorous substances during thermal treatment. In the metal sector, where our solutions support selective laser melting, laser surface cladding, and cold welding. And of course also in the broad field of post-processing.
Are your products modularized, with the integration into manufacturing chains in mind?
Jakschik: As much as possible. We have a construction kit with components out of which we develop individualized solutions – and deliver them to system manufacturers as complete modules.