Concept & objectives

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The laser-based Additive Manufacturing (AM) of metal parts made a significant progress in the last two decades, especially in laser-based powder-bed technology,
broadening the range of materials available for them and also in developing the necessary data pre-processing tool.

Objectives

The AM technology has matured to reach a level where it can be considered as a viable alternative for producing net shape metal components for relatively small markets, predominantly for prototyping and small batch manufacture.

This means only for low-scale applications where one material is used, the accuracy is not too high and surface integrity is achieved in one single AM processing step.


Now it is necessary to improve productivity, cost and speed to bring this technology to a larger scale, towards mass market applications.

Single pre-process software

Thermo-mechanical simulation of the additive manufacturing process

The numerical chain will be merged into a unique compatible software combining all mandatory steps and configurations that are currently split into three different applications to prepare the Additive Manufacturing operation.

The specific objectives to reach the module requirements will be:

  • To develop a all-in-one software to import CAD file, convert the geometry in STL, design automatically support structures and create additive manufacturing input file;
  • To integrate thermo-mechanical simulation of the DMLS additive manufacturing process to predict internal stresses and distortions due to layer by layer fabrication;
  • To realise a three steps optimisation for part produced with additive manufacturing with optimized topology, building orientation and support.

Hybrid MIM/DMLS Manufacturing

Example of hybrid manufacturing for tooling application

A preform manufacturing will be done using Metal Injection Moulding (MIM) that will allow dedicating the DMLS specifically for complex parts that require higher precision and use less time-consuming resources for the more generic parts of the assembly.

The specific objectives to reach the module requirements will be:

  • To formulate and characterize metallic powders for producing complex 3D components with increased wear resistance, enhanced tensile strength, reduced creep, enhance ductility and hot corrosion resistance: properties of DMLS and MIM parts comparable at 90% of the same forged material;
  • To realise mould tooling adapted to MIM integrating conformal cooling mould print realised by DMLS technology: reduction of the cooling time by 40%;
  • To develop process parameters for DMLS and MIM technology to obtain parts with a maximum density of 99% compared to forged material

Adaptive process control

Example of thermal observation of the powder bed during production

In-line thermal and mechanical monitoring will identify the process problems that may occur during the fabrication, thereby will avoid scrap production.

This would guarantee the quality of the built products, or in case of failure during production, the monitoring system will detect the problem without any visual observation.

The specific objectives to reach the module requirements will be:

  • To develop hierarchical process control solutions based on a set of in-situ monitoring sensors for on-the-fly adaptation of process parameters for the integrated additive and subtractive operations;
  • To integrate in-process 3D measurements for interfacing laser-based AM technologies with complementary post-process machining technologies, e.g. laser surface structuring and polishing and ultrasonic and laser assisted machining

System-level integration of modular platform

To ensure the good integration of all modules in a platform, these prerequisites will make the link with the existing post-processing procedures, prepare high-resolution data preparation tools and improve the thermal and mechanical properties of the final product.

The modular DMLS additive manufacturing platform will be tested with characterization samples to validate the built part’s quality.

The monitoring systems will have to be able to detect the faults and then realise a trigger to stop the production or adapt the laser exposure parameters. The specific objectives to reach the module requirements will be:

To enhance the processing speed of laser-based AM processes by using high power laser source (e.g. 1KW) and multi laser heads to work simultaneously on the same bed: reduction of 50% of the laser scanning time;

  • To guarantee part quality during fabrication to stop part production in case of important defaults detection: Zero scrap with DMLS process
  • To develop in-situ post processing treatment to reduce the anisotropy, anneal the residual stresses, and improve the mechanical properties depending on the part application;
  • To develop a flexible workholding system for combining the capabilities of laser-based AM technology with other complementary machining and surface modification technologies;
  • To feature Laser shock peening for minimizing the residual stresses resulting from the laser-based AM processes and also for creating layers with compressive residual stresses on workpieces

Platform demonstration

the platform will host the four end-product demonstrators brought by the industrial partners and will also be open to outside companies willing to integrate the project innovation in their future products.

The specific objectives to reach the module requirements will be:

  • To prove the modular DMLS platform efficiency;
  • To validate the productivity enhancement of hybrid manufacturing for real industrial products: 30%;
  • To verify the properties and characteristics of the built demonstrator compare to the specified requirements;
  • To realise a technical and economical analysis of the demonstrators to validate the cost diminution of the overall process for the four demonstrators
  • To open the platform to external companies through a contest event that will bring 3 additional demonstrators