Additive Manufacturing

Lasered aluminium could supplant machined car parts

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Meeting tough requirements for the car industry

Daimler's demands as an industrial partner were a significant increase in the build-up rates, an improvement in the quality of the surface finish, reproducibility and reliability of the machine as a result of appropriate process monitoring, as well as the qualification of further aluminium series alloys for a range of applications. The Fraunhofer ILT, which has been one of the leading research institutions in the field of laser melting for over 15 years, supplied its know-how for designing the kW laser beam source and the matching optical lens system in order to ensure the desired build-up rates of different aluminium alloys. In addition, the process control for processing the different alloys alongside the machine construction was worked out and the mechanical properties of the components were examined, according to the machine builder.

From the drawing board to building the machine

The preliminary work now needed to be turned into “solid” machine technology. Parallel to this, the functional specification was drawn up at Concept Laser together with the partners, and the design phase for the machine was started. Discoveries which had been made in the meantime by the Fraunhofer ILT, e.g., in relation to temperature control of the build chamber to avoid any warping in the “oversized” components, and in relation to the design of the powder application system, were consistently implemented in the design of the machine. Concept Laser CEO Frank Herzog said, “This really was uncharted territory for us. The development of a machine concept of these dimensions in close collaboration with Daimler AG and the Fraunhofer ILT, based on our LaserCUSING technology, clearly illustrates our claim to be the technology leader in the field of laser melting.”

Herzog said the company's patented machine technology has been exported throughout the world for more than a decade, and this latest partnership could spur demand. “As a result of the co-operation project with Daimler and the Fraunhofer ILT, we hope that the generative machine technology will meet customers' requirements on a broad basis and that it can be employed profitably.”

For the development of parts Daimler, the high and flexible availability of such a machine opens up entirely new possibilities for further optimisation of the product development process, the company said.