Home 3d Printing The Next Chapter in AM: 12-Laser Printing

The Next Chapter in AM: 12-Laser Printing


Manufacturing Engineering: You recently introduced the NXG XII 600, said to be the world’s first 12-laser 3D printer. What was the driver behind this decision?

SLM Solutions has introduced what it calls the world’s first 12-laser 3D printer, the NXG XII 600.

Jill Christner: As a technology pioneer responsible for co-inventing the SLM process in 1996, we were also the first to offer a dual-laser system in 2011, followed by the first quad-laser machine two years after that. We really have just one goal at EOS—to change the future of manufacturing forever. Because of this, it is imperative that as SLM Solutions evolves, as does our technology, that this evolution maps to the needs of our partners. Many of these customers are knocking on the door of serial part production, and although SLM Solutions’ current portfolio helps support low-volume production, the industry’s needs don’t stop there. Neither do we.

ME: Can you tell us about the laser technology? Is it 12 discrete lasers, each with its own optical train, or something else? And do 12 lasers cost 12 times as much?

Christner: There are 12 1,000-W lasers, providing productivity up to 20 times faster than a single-laser printer and five times that of a quad-laser printer. Our Double Jump Speed technology enables build rates of 1,000 cm3/hr, and the tailored laser scanning system is designed for redundant coverage of the entire build area by the 12 lasers. Similarly, the machine also has 12 individual compact scanners with advanced features such as zoom capability, giving unparalleled control of the laser spot. Simply put, the NXG XII 600 was developed to reduce the overall part cost for our customers—especially those with higher production quantities—while providing a build chamber large enough for most aerospace parts.

ME: What does the end user need to know about operating a 12-laser machine? What is the build strategy?

Christner: Our patent-pending scan field partition strategy will distribute the workload to all lasers while minimizing laser interaction. This will ensure maximum productivity for our customers.

ME: How can you ensure sufficient melt pool monitoring, fume evacuation, and synchronized laser power with so much going on at once?

Christner: The NXG XII 600’s gas flow system is the result of years of intensive work. There is consistent shielding gas flow over the entire build chamber, made possible through optimized inlets and outlets that help to achieve homogeneous part properties. Engineers have also integrated a state-of-the-art thermal management system that maintains a constant substrate plate temperature that is independent of the lasers’ power input.

ME: What happens now with the SLM-series machines? Will there be additional members of that family, or does the NXG-series represent the next evolution at SLM Solutions?

Christner: The NXG XII 600 represents an independent family of products that encompass the many features that have launched alongside its release. That said, we will continue to enhance our portfolio in order to cater to different market needs.

ME: Tell us about the Zoom function. Why was this needed, and is it unique to the NXG?

Christner: The Zoom function provides a tailored laser focus size, enabling spot size definition via a double-lens system that is integrated into all 12 optics. As an example, contours can be built with 80-µm spot size while in the same layer a cross-hatch area can be built using a 160-µm spot size. Even larger spot sizes can be set via a defocus function as well. This allows users to utilize higher laser power and therefore increased build rates, but still achieve fine detail.

ME: Has your company introduced any other new technology recently? Will any of the NXG’s advancements trickle down to the SLM generation?

Christner: Many of the features launched with NXG XII 600 are retrofittable and could be integrated into our current portfolio of machines. So with regard to recent SLM Solutions developments, stay tuned … there’s more!

ME: You mention integrating the NXG XII 600 “into your existing supply chain.” Please elaborate.

Christner: It has always been a goal of the additive industry to supplement current traditional manufacturing methods with a true AM production system. With the SLM Solutions portfolio, I believe we have accomplished this, but the NXG XII 600 pushes this trend even further. It can increase productivity while reducing the overall cost per part. As a result, customers are able to make highly complex parts in multiple quantities, allowing them to better meet their production demands.

Sandvik Additive Manufacturing Becomes Strategic Partner with GE Additive

GE Additive, Cincinnati, has made atomized metal powder supplier Sandvik Additive Manufacturing, Sandviken, Sweden, a strategic partner in its Binder Jet Beta Partner Program. Sandvik will work closely with GE Additive to become a certified powder supplier for a range of Sandvik’s Osprey alloys that complement GE Additive’s and its own materials portfolio. The company will also use GE Additive’s H2 Binder Jet beta machine to support its internal and external customers. Jacob Brunsberg, leader of the Binder Jet product line at GE Additive, suggested in a press release that the company’s goal is to make additive mass production a reality in every industry, and intends to leverage Binder Jet technology as the means to reach that goal. Said Brunsberg, “Attracting partners like Sandvik—with know-how in industrializing innovation, deep materials knowledge, and a shared vision for the potential of additive technology—remains a cornerstone of our Binder Jet commercialization strategy.”

The REACTOR 3D printing software from Fusion3 boasts capabilities beyond basic slicing.

Fusion3 Gets a REACTOR

Fusion3, a Greensboro, N.C.-based 3D printer builder, has partnered with software and electronics provider Create It REAL, Aalborg, Denmark, to deliver REACTOR 3D printing software for use with Fusion3’s F410 FDM (fused deposition modeling) 3D printer. Fusion3 said the software’s capabilities go beyond slicing, and that it includes an interface that guides users through the build setup; enhanced part quality via Create it REAL’s adaptive print algorithms; and the ability to apply “modifiers,” or weight, strength, and print time settings, to different sections of a print job.

“Fusion3 is focused on delivering affordable, high-performance 3D printers to our commercial and high-end education customers,” said Fusion3 CEO Chip Royce. “The addition of REACTOR takes our printers’ performance to even higher levels.”

EOS, Texas A&M Develop AM Education Program

EOS North America, Novi, Mich., has partnered with Texas A&M University to offer an additive manufacturing (AM) professional development program. Using a combination of virtual and conventional learning methods, it leverages the metal AM equipment provider’s applied engineering group, Additive Minds, to offer hands-on training, providing participants with information on the latest powder bed processes. These include direct metal laser solidification (DMLS) and selective laser sintering (SLS), as well as an understanding of other AM processes, metal and polymer materials for AM, design for AM, case studies, best practices, troubleshooting, and more. The partnership recently completed its first session with NASA. The program’s open discussion, instructor interaction, presentation of case studies and tools, and mixture of “theoretical” and “practical” approaches were among the top highlights noted by participants.

New materials and manufacturing processes will protect and advance the U.S. Air Force’s competitive and strategic capabilities.

U.S. Air Force, Essentium in Long-Term AM Deal

The U.S. Air Force has awarded a multi-year contract to Essentium Inc., Pflugerville, Texas, intended to accelerate the military’s deployment of additive manufacturing. The 3D printing solution provider will help drive the development of AM for applications in tooling, ground support, maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO), and flight-certified parts for military aircraft and ground vehicles through both the Air Force and the National Guard Bureau (NGB). This contract is part of more than $550 million deployed through the inaugural Strategic Financing (STRATFi) initiative to identify and promote “big bet” technologies that have the potential to protect and advance the future dominance of the U.S. Air Force and its service members. The contract will also help the NGB advance its ability to speed the production of parts for aging fleets of air and ground vehicles.

The ability to incorporate structural elements and electrical wiring in a single component will be a key benefit for the aerospace industry.

Dual-Purpose PEEK for Composite Parts

For the past year, Zortrax SA, Olsztyn, Poland has worked with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a means to manufacture high-performance composite parts from two blends of PEEK filament, using dual-extrusion technology on the Zortrax Endureal industrial 3D printer. It appears the partners have been successful, having delivered the first prototype composite parts made from standard PEEK and an experimental, electrically-conductive PEEK developed by the ESA. “Weight reduction is always a key design goal in aerospace engineering and it can be done by building parts with multiple purposes,” said Michał Siemaszko, head of R&D at Zortrax. “That is what we aim to solve by 3D printing PEEK components with electrically-conductive paths.”

Trade Group Promotes AM’s Green Benefits

The Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association (AMGTA), a global trade group that promotes the environmental benefits of AM, announced that 12 AM companies from eight countries have joined the organization. These include Sintavia LLC, Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corp., QC Laboratories Inc., AMEXCI AB, Danish AM Hub, EOS, GE Additive, Materialise, the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland, Siemens Digital Industries Software, SLM Solutions Inc. and Stryker. The AMGTA was launched in November 2019 to promote the environmental benefits of AM over traditional manufacturing, and is a non-commercial, unaffiliated organization open to any additive manufacturer or industry stakeholder that meets criteria relating to production or process sustainability.

Sigma Labs Partners with Northwestern

Metal 3D printing QA software developer Sigma Labs, Santa Fe, N.M., is partnering with Northwestern University. The company expanded its PrintRite3D In-Process QA capabilities by developing hardware and software for use in directed energy deposition (DED) additive processes. The new technology will be installed onto a customized, open-architecture DED system for validation and testing, the Additive Rapid Prototyping Instrument (ARPI), which will be located at Northwestern’s Advanced Manufacturing Processes Laboratory (AMPL) in Evanston, Illinois.

A rendering of Wabtec’s 11,000 ft2 (1,022 m2) AM facility at Pittsburgh’s Neighborhood 91, expected to open in the spring of 2021.

Wabtec Joins Neighborhood 91

Wabtec Corp., Pittsburgh, a global provider of equipment, systems, and services for the freight and transit rail sector, is the first manufacturing anchor tenant at Neighborhood 91, an additive manufacturing production center that is part of the Pittsburgh International Airport’s 195-acre Innovation Campus. Neighborhood 91 is said to be the first development in the world to condense and connect all components of the additive manufacturing and 3D printing supply chain into one production ecosystem. “Additive technology is a key focus area for us that provides new capabilities to drive innovation where traditional manufacturing could not,” said Eric Gebhardt, Wabtec’s chief technology officer.

Sporting equipment, ducting and bellows, and end-of-arm tooling are just a few of the applications for GoProto’s 3DElastoPrint parts service.

GoProto Introduces 3DElastoPrint

GoProto Inc., San Diego, a service bureau and HP rapid manufacturing partner, has created a new parts service based on a co-branded powder developed by chemical company Evonik Industries, Essen, Germany, and 3D printer manufacturer HP, Palo Alto, Calif. The new elastomer is for use with HP’s Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) system and is a flexible polymer based on thermoplastic amide (TPA), ideal for any part design requiring a lightweight, rubber-like material.

GoProto has introduced 3DElastoPrint, a 3D-printed parts service utilizing the new material. “We instantly recognized the massive market potential and its ability to help us provide customers with production-grade parts with no tooling and all of the benefits of 3D printing,” said President and CEO Jesse Lea. “We’re not going after parts we can inexpensively produce using conventional methods; we’re going for the things that haven’t been addressed well before.”

HP Universal Build Manager Powered by Dyndrite

HP’s new Universal Build Manager, powered by the Accelerated Geometry Engine from Dyndrite Corp., Seattle, is said to be the industry’s first GPU-accelerated AM build prep and management solution. Announced during a virtual event, Dyndrite Day, the Universal Build Manager is said to be an OEM- and process-agnostic tool boasting “unprecedented performance, scalability and workflow automation” for AM end-users. It also supports multiple production-grade AM technologies, as well as a plug-in architecture that enables 3D printer manufacturers and software developers to create machine-specific capabilities.

Additive Manufacturing Update is edited by Contributing Editor Kip Hanson, kip@kahmco.com

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