3D Printers

Fraunhofer ILT to launch large-scale SLM 3D printing system at formnext 2017

The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT) has announced that it will be presenting its new SLM laboratory system at formnext 2017.

The system, built in Aachen, Germany, offers a scalable build volume of up to volume of 1,000 mm x 800 mm x 500 mm and quick and effective 3D printing of large-scale metal parts.

R&D, power in the hands of the creator

SLM 3D printing, also known as Laser Powder Bed Fusion was developed by Fraunhofer ILT. When 3D printing with a large build volume a large build volume, inert gas suction technology that is usually applied is no longer effective or feasible.

Consequently, latest R&D at the institute has focused on testing “new strategies for exposure”, the use of “shielding gas flow,” systems with either fiber lasers or diode lasers, and the development of multi-spot processing heads.

Results of the R&D have shown that multi-spot processing increases the system’s build-up rate by increasing the number of beam sources. Build volume can also be increased by merely extending the travel length of the axis system, without changing the type of laser system.

Fraunhofer scientist, Christian Tenbrock, explained that “Because both optical systems have their characteristic pros and cons, we will continue to pursue both approaches.”

SLM in action at Fraunhofer ILT Aachen. Photo via Fraunhofer ILT.
SLM in action at Fraunhofer ILT Aachen. Photo via Fraunhofer ILT.

Increasing the build volume for effective SLM 3D printing

With no need to adjust the shielding gas system or the laser systems used, development of new SLM systems that adapt the build volume to the respective application is more feasible than previously thought, and this forms the basis of Fraunhofer ILT’s new system.

Expressing hopes that this new system will make SLM printing suitable for 3D printing in series manufacturing, Tenbrock explained that Fraunhofer managed to “create process conditions that are constant and easy to control, thereby improving process robustness.”

From drawing board to factory floor

In addition to the 3D printing equipment itself, Fraunhofer ILT is developing “intelligent strategies for exposure and path planning” alongside new “process parameters.”

The long term aim in developing processes alongside hardware is to optimize SLM 3D printing for a range of industries, and addressing design issues such as internal stresses and distortion of SLM 3D printed parts.

Fraunhofer ILT will be exhibiting at booth F50 in Hall 3.0 at the formnext trade fair from November 14 to 17, 2017

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Featured image shows Fraunhofer large new SLM factory system for 3D printing metal components (machine housing not shown). Photo via Fraunhofer ILT.