Concept Laser Automating AM processes, networking machines
Germany – Concept Laser, one of the leading drivers of powder bed-based laser melting using metals, was showcasing a comprehensive machine concept themed “AM Factory of Tomorrow” at Formnext 2015 in Frankfurt, Germany.
The concept is about intelligent networking of machines, a higher level of automation and incorporating system technology into the production environment. Ultimately, the goal is to open up industrial series production solutions faster and more cost-effectively, the company explained.
The “AM Factory of Tomorrow” not only refers to the decentralised approach with regional printing centres as service providers round the globe, but also specific measures for increasing productivity in series production. In this case, it is all about exploiting the digital potential for industrial process and system design in accordance with the “Industry 4.0” approach.
Concept Laser is formulating three significant aspects for this purpose: Digital networking of systems, integration into the production environment and automation of processes.
The new plant architecture is characterised by decoupling of “pre-production,” “production” and “post-processing.” This includes among other things flexible machine loading and physical separation of the setting-up and disarming processes.
According to Concept Laser, the objective here was to coordinate the process components in a more targeted way with interfaces and increase the flexibility of the process design to create an integrated approach. This becomes possible thanks to a consistent modular structure of “handling stations” and “build and process units”, which in terms of combination and interlinking, promises considerably greater flexibility and availabilities. It will also be possible to handle the present diversity of materials better, and ultimately more economically, through a targeted combination of these modules. For example, in future the machine user will be able to use the modules to very precisely customise the production assignment in terms of the part geometry or material.
Simulated production scenarios have reportedly shown that the floor space required can be reduced by up to 85% compared to the possibilities that exist at present. In addition, the laser power per sq/m is increased seven-fold. The build envelope sizes have also increased.