Apr 4, 2017 | By Benedict

Six companies, two universities, and two research institutes have joined forces for the LASIMM (Large Additive Subtractive Integrated Modular Machine) 3D printing project, which has received funding from the European Union to develop a hybrid additive/subtractive manufacturing system.

How the LASIMM hybrid manufacturing system might look

Companies, researchers, and universities working on 3D printing technology don’t often group together in large numbers. When they do, it’s almost always for mutually beneficial causes—see, for example, the 3MF Consortium, a group of major additive manufacturing companies (3D Systems, Stratasys, HP, Ultimaker…) that are seeking to implement a standardized new file format for 3D printing. 3MF could benefit all members, but individual members don’t need to devote a huge amount of time or resources to the cause; they simply need to promote use of 3MF through their own products.

Rarely do such large groups come together, physically and contractually, to develop a complex system of hardware and software. Such a task would require time, resources, and even the sharing of IP, all of which could make the prospect less than appealing for businesses that already have their own strict targets to meet. All of that makes the LASIMM Project, a huge collaborative endeavor to produce an all-in-one additive and subtractive manufacturing system, all the more exciting.

The LASIMM group includes six companies, two universities, and two research institutes, and has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. (An early presentation listed the project’s budget as just under 5 million euros.) Over a period of 36 months, the group will attempt to create the “world’s largest hybrid manufacturing machine,” integrating additive, subtractive, metrology, and cold work capabilities into a single machine with an advanced control system. In other words, this ambitious project could be a really big deal.

The LASIMM system will combine additive, subtractive, metrology, and cold work capabilities

While the LASIMM system promises to deliver a raft of manufacturing options, its 3D printing capabilities sound particularly exciting—if they can in fact be realized. The group says that Wire + Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) technology will be used to make the LASIMM system the “world’s largest metal 3D printer,” which will be able to provide a “20% reduction in time and cost, with respect to the current additive and subtractive processes,” as well as a “15% increase in productivity for high-volume AM production.”

The organizations involved in the LASIMM Project are currently developing the system so it can 3D print (and machine) aluminum, steel, and titanium. However, the system will be build in a “modular” way that could enable flexible reconfigurations for different projects. This capacity for reconfiguration of the modular system could potentially allow different materials to be introduced at a later time, and indications suggest that LASIMM partners are still looking at different technologies that could be integrated into the system.

Foster + Partners, a British architecture firm and member of the LASIMM group, announced yesterday that it is exploring new metal 3D printing approaches that could potentially be used on the LASIMM hybrid manufacturing system. The company has used 3D printing since 2004, and has worked with Loughborough University and other consortium partners for several years in order to bring large-scale concrete 3D printing to market. Foster + Partners is joined by nine other big names on the LASIMM project, including defense company BAE Systems, Autodesk-owned CAD/CAM company Delcam, and British automation specialist Global Robots.

“Reducing costs, improving efficiency, and production flexibility are core pillars to improve Europe’s industrial competitiveness,” said a LASIMM spokesperson in a press release. “The LASIMM project aims to address this need through the development of large scale and flexible all-in-one hybrid machines, based on a modular architecture that is easily scalable, and ensuring that the properties of the material produced surpass those of a forged material. It will enable the production of a part/product directly from computer-aided design (CAD) models within a reduced timeframe and without the need of post-processing steps.”

How the 10 LASIMM Project members will share the workload

With European Union backing and a wealth of expertise at its collective disposal, it seems fair to expect big things from this project. Will it succeed? Watch this space.

LASIMM partners in full:

Companies

  • BAE Systems
  • Foster + Partners
  • Vestas Wind Systems
  • Global Robots Ltd
  • LOXIN
  • Delcam (owned by Autodesk)

Universities

  • IST (Instituto Superior Tecnico)
  • Cranfield University

Research institutes and organizations

  • HZG (Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht)
  • EWF (European Federation for Welding, Joining and Cutting)

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Technology

 

 

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