Aug 7, 2017 | By Tess

German additive manufacturing company TRUMPF has announced that the new EHLA laser metal coating process is ready for series production.

EHLA, which stands for extreme high-speed laser deposition welding, was developed and patented by researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology, a research center based in Aachen, Germany.

According to TRUMPF, the novel EHLA process offers a fast and highly efficient method for metal coating, up to 100 times faster than existing processes.

Laser deposition welding has existed for years and is one of the best methods for metal coating as it allows for the creation of pore- and crack-free metal coatings. It also enables a strong metallurgical bonding to substrates made from a broad variety of materials.

One of the main challenges with laser deposition welding has been the ability coat large components, largely because of speed constraints. With the novel EHLA process, however, users can reach deposition rates of over 250 square centimeters per minute (compared to previous rates of 10 to 40 square centimeters per minute).

Fraunhofer researchers were able to achieve such impressive rates by tweaking the deposition process slightly. As they explain, standard laser deposition welding involves using a laser to melt a weld pool on the surface of a component. The laser simultaneously fuses a metal powder, which is gradually added to coat and fuse to the objects surface.

With the EHLA method, the researchers found they could achieve faster results by using the laser to heat the powder filler material above the weld spot, heating it almost to the point of melting so that when it reaches the weld pool it takes significantly less time to melt.

Additionally, the EHLA method can reportedly print much thinner layers than was previously possible. More specifically, it can achieve layer thicknesses as thin as 10 to 300 micrometers, while the minimum layer thickness before EHLA was only around 500 micrometers.

By using a finer laser focus, the technology also uses less energy than its counterparts.

As it begins series production of the EHLA system, TRUMPF says it will be integrating the process directly into its systems. As Antonio Candel-Ruiz, a laser surface methods expert at TRUMPF, explained: “Our diode lasers and our disk lasers are suitable for EHLA, depending on the laser focus required.”

TRUMPF says it has a number of laser-based machines that are compatible with EHLA, including the TruLaser Cell 3000, the TruLaser Cell 7000 Series. The former can be used to manufacture small and medium-sized parts, while the latter is better suited for larger-scale parts.

The company adds that EHLA can also be added into other manufacturers’ existing systems.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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