Fraunhofer ILT has announced the opening of the “world’s largest SLM facility”, the Aachen Center for 3D printing which has now acquired a Concept Laser XLine 2000R 3D printer.

The opening of the facility is the result of a joint venture between RWTH Aachen University of Applied Sciences and Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT). The opening was attended by 40 guests and took place at the new Digital Photonic Production industry building at the RWTH Aachen campus. Fraunhofer and the nearby RWTH Aachen University have collaborated in the past to develop an innovative new metal additive coating technology.

The newly built Digital Photonic Production industry building at RWTH. Photo via RWTH.

The newly built Digital Photonic Production industry building at RWTH. Photo via RWTH.

SLM-XL project

The machine will be the subject of a three-year research project known as the SLM-XL which will bring together 15 project partners from several different industry sectors. According to Sebastian Bremen, team manager of SLM productivity at Fraunhofer ILT, the facility “offers SMEs the opportunity to implement their own additive projects on an XXL scale using a facility that costs two million euros; a price tag generally too high for any individual company.” Bremen also explaining,

Thanks to the Aachen Center for 3D Printing, SMEs now also have access to a technology that can make them more competitive and innovative. In addition, this unit is another important step towards establishing a joint research group between Fraunhofer ILT and the University of Aachen.

The facility, with particular reference to the automotive industry, aims to “accelerate the production of large-volume functional prototypes in order to significantly shorten the often extremely long and expensive development processes.”

Additionally, Fraunhofer explains the machine will be used “to 3D print large-volume tools that are adapted to provide custom functions, that are either impossible or very difficult and expensive to manufacture using conventional processes.”

The Concept Laser XLine 2000R machine. Image via Concept Laser.

The Concept Laser XLine 2000R machine. Image via Concept Laser.

“World’s largest SLM facility”

The Concept Laser XLine 2000R is referred to by Concept Laser as the world’s largest SLM for its 800 x 400 x 500 mm³ build volume. The machine can manufacture metal parts with a maximum volume of 160L. The metal 3D printer weighs approximately 9,200 kg. It is hoped the incorporation of the machine will encourage industrialization of additive manufacturing and further prove the technology’s potential.

The title of largest metal 3D printer is a hotly contested subject with many companies hoping to claim the top spot. A joint venture based in Philadelphia has claimed to have created the “world’s largest metal 3D printer.” While a South African project known as Aeroswift is currently developing the “world’s largest titanium powder additive manufacturing machine” and has piqued the interests of aerospace companies Airbus and Boeing.

For 3D printing facilities, the sheer range and number of additive manufacturing machines available at the Materialise HQ in Leuven, Belgium is remarkable. While in March this year, Australia’s Monash University acquired one of the 5 $3.5 million XLine 2000R 3D printers manufactured so far by Concept Laser.

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Featured image shows the opening ceremony with Prof. Dr. Doris Samm and Prof. Dr. Andreas Gebhard from Aachen University of Applied Sciences with Dr. Reinhart Poprawe, Director of Fraunhofer ILT. Photo via Aachen University of Applied Sciences / Arnd Gottschalk. 

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