The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT, based in Aachen, Germany, has received an ‘Award for Innovation’ in recognition of their work in additive manufacturing.
Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia 2011 Innovation Award in the ‘Innovation’ category was awarded to Professor Reinhart Poprawe M.A., Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT, and his team of laser experts comprising Dr. Andres Gasser, Dr. Ingomar Kelbassa, Dr. Wilhelm Meiners and Dr. Konrad Wissenbach. The award includes a cash prize of €100,000 euros.
The Fraunhofer ILT research team has been driving forward progress in the field of additive manufacturing for over 20 years, developing techniques that help to save energy and resources in the production environment. The institute’s specialists have systematically evolved laser processes for use with different materials and in different applications, paving the way to their implementation on an industrial scale.
Professor Poprawe and his team are leading experts in the technique of selective laser melting (SLM). SLM enables customised components such as medical implants or functional parts for machine tools to be manufactured cost-effectively and extremely rapidly in small batches on the basis of 3-D CAD data. This has opened the door to entirely new business models in the manufacturing industry, including mass customisation, open innovation and co-creation, which allow end users to participate in the design process or even take over a large part of the design work themselves.
In addition to SLM, a technique developed from the outset by the institute in Aachen, the Fraunhofer ILT research team is also promoting the use of Laser Material Deposition (LMD) in manufacturing, repair and modification activities. In LMD the components are produced by a laser melting powder material projected by a nozzle onto specific areas of the component. SLM is capable of generating the finely detailed structures of complex components. LMD is more suited to the manufacture of large-area components and to repairs. The main applications for LMD at present are the repair of aircraft engine components and tools for a wide range of industrial sectors
Professor Poprawe and his team first demonstrated an additive process for the manufacture of metallic components in their laboratory in 1996. The revolutionary aspects at the time were that it allowed the use of commercial powder materials and that the laser beam fully melted the powder particles.
Edited by: Paul Whittaker, Editor ipmd.net, [email protected]