Additive manufacturing with metals is becoming increasingly important in the automotive industry, states the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT, in Aachen, Germany. Time and cost reductions in production are making this technology increasingly attractive to the carmakers.
Daimler AG has been working with Fraunhofer ILT and Concept Laser to apply the technology to applications involving vehicle and engine technology. Together they have developed a new high-performance LaserCUSING® machine ‘X line 1000R’, whose build chamber size surpasses anything that was previously available.
The project partners formed as part of the ‘Alu generative research and development project’, organised by the German Ministry of Education and Research. Together with different partners from industry, including Daimler AG, Fraunhofer ILT examined the laser fusing technology for production applications involving aluminium components.
The new X line 1000R machine was specifically configured to cater for Daimler AG’s special requirements for automobile applications. The aim of Daimler AG was to replace costly sand-casting and die-casting applications in early phases of development. In addition, the LaserCUSING process will in future offer the possibility of generating lightweight structures with a high level of rigidity which will permit weight-optimised geometries with almost no restrictions on the design.
The centrepiece of the X line 1000R consists of a high-power laser in the kilowatt range which enables an increase in productivity of up to a factor of 10 compared with standard laser fusing machines available on the market.
The LaserCUSING® process, similar to the Selective Laser Melting (SLM) process, is used to produce metallic components which can be subjected to mechanical and thermal loading with high precision. Depending on the application, the materials used are high-grade and tool steels, aluminium or titanium alloys, nickel-based superalloys, cobalt-chromium alloys and in future precious metals such as gold and silver will also be used.
LaserCUSING® involves fine metallic powder being locally fused by a fibre laser. Following cooling, the material solidifies. The contour of the component is produced by directing the laser beam using a mirror deflecting unit (scanner). The component is built up layer by layer (with a layer thickness of 20 – 100 μm) by lowering the bottom of the installation space, applying more powder and fusing again.
Posted by: Paul Whittaker, Editor ipmd.net, [email protected]