Jun 15, 2017 | By Benedict

The Aachen University of Applied Sciences and the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT have opened the world’s largest selective laser melting (SLM) 3D printing facility, located in the new Digital Photonic Production industry building on the RWTH Aachen campus.

Party time: (l-r) Prof. Dr. Doris Samm, Prorector for Research and Innovation at the Aachen University of Applied Sciences; Prof. Dr. Andreas Gebhard, Dean of department Mechanical Engineering and Mechatronics at the Aachen University of Applied Sciences; Prof. Dr. Reinhart Poprawe, Director of Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT

Maybe it’s the Alps, maybe it’s the excellent beer, or perhaps it’s the world-class technology on offer. Whatever the reason, there’s something about Germany that’s highly conducive to SLM and other metal 3D printing processes. The European country boasts a wealth of additive manufacturing heavyweights, including EOS, SLM Solutions, and Concept Laser, and can now lay claim to another honor: being home to the world’s largest SLM 3D printing facility.

The landmark development comes courtesy of the Aachen University of Applied Sciences and the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT, who opened the doors to the massive new additive manufacturing facility on June 1.

Fortunately, Germany knows how to celebrate as much as it knows how to build a 3D printer, and some 40 guests from industry and research were invited to attend the official opening of the SLM 3D printing facility.

According to the two founders of the SLM facility, Concept Laser’s XLine 2000R selective laser melting system will play a “pivotal role” there. Thanks to its extremely large build envelope (800 x 400 x 500 mm), the XLine 2000R can manufacture metal components with a maximum volume of 160 liters.

Concept Laser's XLine 2000R 3D printer will play an important role at the new SLM facility

The XLine 2000R will be at the center of the “SLM-XL” research project, which is intended to “accelerate and optimize” the entire manufacturing process for large 3D printed metal components. There are currently 15 projects partners from multiple industry sectors working on the project.

“The Aachen Center for 3D Printing is relying on teamwork to conduct the three-year SLM-XL research project,” Fraunhofer ILT explains. “Local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as renowned additive manufacturing companies are collaborating with experts from the University of Aachen and Fraunhofer ILT to achieve important goals.”

The SLM-XL project will have two main goals: to accelerate the production of large-volume functional prototypes (for the automotive industry, for instance) in order to shorten the development processes, and to 3D print large-volume tools that are adapted to provide custom functions. These 3D printed tools will be either impossible or very difficult and expensive to manufacture using conventional manufacturing processes.

The additive manufacturing facility is located in the Digital Photonic Production industry building on the RWTH Aachen campus

“The new joint SLM facility offers SMEs the opportunity to implement their own additive projects on an XXL scale using a facility that costs two million euros, a price tag generally too high for any individual company,” commented Sebastian Bremen, team manager SLM productivity at Fraunhofer ILT.

“Thanks to the Aachen Center for 3D Printing, SMEs now also have access to a technology that can make them more competitive and innovative. In addition, this unit is another important step towards establishing a joint research group between Fraunhofer ILT and the University of Aachen.”

 

 

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