The Latest News from the World of Laser Based Metallic Additive Manufacturing

On Tuesday the 22nd of March I attended Cranfield Universities Laser Additive Manufacturing workshop. Organised with the AILU (Association of Laser Users), the workshop brought together a wide variety of perspectives on the state of metals technologies in the industry. Not just powder bed processes but also cladding type strategies as well. The following blog is a list of headlines and news snippets from the day.

 

Highlights from the day:

Moataz Attallah from the University of Birmingham talked about his work on laser-powder interaction, highlighting the fact many people are still using traditional alloys in AM machines and the need for more AM specific alloys. Particularly due to the fact lower melting point elements such as Al & Mg are prone to evaporating out of the melt pool. I think there is probably an interesting dynamic here, powder manufacturers are more interested in products that they can sell, and users prefer the familiarity of traditional alloys keeping demand low. Wider adoption of AM specific alloys could take a considerable marketing effort to persuade customers as well as a lot of R&D to backup any claims that they are actually any better.

Wojciech Suder from Cranfield University talked about how results can vary wildly between different machines and different powder manufacturers, this means a lot of work has to go into characterising the machine & powder combination for different laser strategies. Perhaps in the future more should be done to establish standardised powder & laser regimes between manufacturers.

Andrew Moore from Heriot-Watt University gave an exciting talk about his work using a massive laser to produce a powerful flash x-ray capable of imaging the build bed and melt pool during selective laser melting. Things get a little scary when your laser and x-ray source are so big you need to keep them in a separate room…

Hideki Kyogoku from Kinki University, brought news of the latest developments in Japan regarding metallic additive manufacturing. Despite a slow start in the industry could Japan be poised to catch up & potentially overtake the rest of the world as a leading machine exporter?

Joahnnes Frechard from the French AM company “BeAM” stepped in at the last minute to give a talk on his work developing “PowerCLAD” a very impressive software package that bridges the gap between Delcam’s PowerSHAPE CAD suite and their PowerMILL CAM package enabling the user to specify highly customisable laser strategies from CAD data and then export these into G-code your machine can interpret.

Last week BeAM also welcomed the same aerospace component back to their facility to be laser repaired and re-machined for the third time! They’re qualified to repeat this repair process up to 6 times on the same component taking certain previously disposable components lifespan from 10,000 hours to a whopping 60,000.

Stuart Jackson from EOS pointed out that their new Nylon 11 formulation is looking very promising showing much better results than when it was first released in the early days of AM.

Paul Goodwin from TWI gave a talk on the use of DED to repair broaching tools & the challenges of hard facing onto already very hard substrates. Despite broaching being somewhat old tech with tools costing anything up to £120k the ability to repair then regrind a snapped tooth is an amazing development.

 

Throughout the day I also saw a number of novel hybrid AM technologies and ideas discussed:

 

  • EOS have been using specially adapted build beds to repair the tips of complex jet burner components using DLMS.

 

  • BeAM have been using DLMS to produce the complex features of a part then transferring these half finishing parts to a DED cladding type system to print the remaining simple features. Greatly decreasing the build times.

 

  • On a similar note Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies talked about the merits of starting from the smallest piece of stock you can then additively producing the complex features you need onto this substrate.