As the Industrialization and Digitalization of Additive Manufacturing (IDAM) project reaches its halfway stage, GKN Powder Metallurgy, one of the twelve project partners, reports it has identified its new DP 600 steel as having excellent potential for use in the auto sector. IDAM is a three-year research project launched in March 2019, with the aim of transferring metal Additive Manufacturing technology into an industrialised and highly-automated process specifically for the automotive industry.
The gas atomised powder identified by GKN PM is a dual-phase steel whose mechanical properties can be tuned using heat treatment methods. The DP 600’s tunable properties are said to make the metal powder a good candidate for several structural automotive applications, as well as for other applications in the industrial market. GKN PM states that there is also potential to further reduce cost per part by using water atomised powders in future applications.
Within the IDAM consortium, pilot production lines are being implemented at both the BMW Group’s Additive Manufacturing Campus, Munich, and GKN Powder Metallurgy’s facility, Bonn, Germany. Over the past year, the IDAM partners are said to have made progress in the creation of digitalised AM pilot lines by tackling a range of topics, including pre-build, build and post-build phases.
Among the most critical issues addressed at this stage of the project is the creation of a digital architecture, including digital standards and an IoT-connected overview of the AM process chain. A digital architecture that covers the entire AM process is critical to ensuring communication between AM process chain modules and achieving the reliability required for serial production, explains the company.
One of the biggest hurdles in adapting the digital architecture is the creation of a comprehensive solution for the various Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion Powder (PBF-LB) machines, which all vary in their interfaces to the process chain. The diverse nature of the PBF-LB systems on the market makes it challenging to implement an interface that is both reliable and flexible.
GKN PM explains that it is leveraging its knowledge of conventional Powder Metallurgy serial production, as well as its experience with metal Additive Manufacturing, to create the automated factory setup.
“We are now halfway through the IDAM roadmap,” commented, Sebastian Blümer, Technology Manager Laser AM at GKN Powder Metallurgy. “Currently, we are in the phase of checking the concepts of the pilot line modules. We are preparing to receive the remaining modules by the beginning of 2021, which will give us about a year to test and qualify them. In other words, the digital architecture is almost finished and we are now looking to the prototype phase. We are eager to get the pilot line modules connected with our internal systems to simulate the IDAM workflow.”
As part of the project, GKN PM is validating a recently acquired EOS M 300-4 quad-laser system, testing out multi-laser exposure strategies and pushing the system’s productivity. Using the M 300-4, GKN PM reports that its DP 600 metal powder has demonstrated an elongation rate of 13% (as-built) and 22% (with heat treatment), as well as utensile strength of 950 MPa (as-built) and 700 MPa (with heat treatment).