Jun 1, 2017 | By Benedict

The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology, a research institute based in Aachen, Germany, has developed something called “extreme high-speed laser material deposition,” or EHLA, a new process for coating metal parts.

Fraunhofer ILT this week released details of one of its latest high-profile projects, one that concerns a new metal coating process called “extreme high-speed laser material deposition,” or EHLA.

It’s not exactly 3D printing, but the research has been spearheaded by additive experts. Gerhard Backes, coming from the Chair for Digital Additive Production at RWTH Aachen University, joined Fraunhofer ILT colleagues Andres Gasser and Thomas Schopphoven for the project.

These researchers say the new process could be used to protect metallic components from corrosion and wear, without the disadvantages inherent in hard chromium plating—a process that will actually be banned come September because of its extreme environmental impact.

According to the ILT experts, EHLA is much more environmentally friendly than chromium plating because no chemicals are used. It’s also preferable for other reasons too.

“The coating is bonded to the base material in a material-locking manner so it cannot flake off, unlike...with hard chromium plating,” the researchers say, adding that the process is also compatible with a range of coatings, such as iron, nickel, and cobalt-based alloys.

These coatings are applied by using a laser to create a melt pool, into which a small amount of powder is applied. The metal powder is then deposited in a thin and consistent layer by means of a movement between laser beam and component. What sets EHLA apart from other deposition processes is that powders are completely melted before they reach the surface of the component.

Besides its minimal environment impact, other advantages to the process include lower resource consumption, with EHLA able to deposit around 90 percent of materials into the right areas. Other processes usually hit about 50 percent.

“With the EHLA process, we can finally apply thin layers in the tenth-of-a-millimeter range to large areas in a very short time and in a manner which is efficient in terms of resources,” Gasser said.

EHLA developers (l-r) Thomas Schopphoven, Gerhard Maria Backes, and Andres Gasser

But there are further advantages still, perhaps the most important of which is the phenomenal speed of EHLA.

“With EHLA, we can coat the component at speeds that are 100 to 250 times higher than those used in conventional Laser Material Deposition,” commented Backes. “In addition, it barely heats up. This allows us to coat heat-sensitive components as well.”

Never mind that chromium plating will soon become outlawed: with speeds up to 250 times greater than existing deposition processes, EHLA presents a strong case for its adoption regardless.

Excitingly, EHLA has already been tried and tested in the private sector. For example, Dutch company IHC Vremac Cylinders B.V. has adopted the process to coat its hydraulic cylinders (which are up to ten meters long) for offshore applications.

Ultimately, Schopphoven sees huge potential for the new coating process developed at Fraunhofer ILT. “With EHLA, we could enter into series coating—and, in the future, even coat components that were previously used without coating,” he said.

“This makes new components possible that no longer wear out during the product life cycle. In addition, EHLA could keep coating technology, which is increasingly migrating into low-wage countries, here in Europe.”

The three researchers received a 2017 Joseph von Fraunhofer Prize for their work concerning EHLA. The jury commended the researchers for developing an “economical replacement of chromium(VI) in essential fields of application.”

With an annual research budget of more than two billion euros, the Fraunhofer Society is one of Europe’s most important applied science research organizations. Across its 67 individual institutes, which can be found all across Germany, Fraunhofer has been at the heart of many recent technological breakthroughs—including those in 3D printing and 3D scanning.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT), one of the Society’s 67 institutes, focuses on lasers and optical technology, with its research having real-world applications in car manufacturing, photovoltaics, aircraft industry, medical engineering, and other areas.

In recent years, the ILT has been heavily involved with 3D printing, since most metal 3D printers and some resin 3D printers use lasers to process 3D printing materials. Last October, we reported on a $36,000 SLM 3D printer developed by Fraunhofer ILT in collaboration with GoetheLab.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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kb wrote at 6/2/2017 10:14:58 PM:

Hard chromium is used to make extremely smooth cylinder rods. This looks anything but smooth...

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