Nov 30, 2017 | By David

Metal additive manufacturing has been perhaps the key growth area of the 3D printing world over the last decade or so, and Germany’s Fraunhofer, Europe's largest application-oriented research organization, has made a name for itself as one of the leading lights in this field. The Aachen-based research organization today announced the launch of a new project called futureAM that should see it extend its influence even further. futureAM will see a number of different Fraunhofer branches working closely together in order to secure prerequisites for technological leaps in additive manufacturing with metallic materials.

According to Prof. Johannes Henrich Schleifenbaum, coordinator of futureAM and Director of Additive Manufacturing and Functional Layers at Fraunhofer ILT in Aachen, "The research platform will develop new digital process chains, scalable and robust AM processes, systems engineering and automation, as well as expand the range of processable and affordable materials." The results of the project should lead to reduced manufacturing costs and accelerated production cycles, as well as a significant reduction on size limitations with the help of new plant design concepts.

Germany is one of the global powerhouses in advanced manufacturing techniques, particularly in metal AM, and Fraunhofer has contributed more than its fair share towards the establishment of this reputation. The six project partners in futureAM are Aachen’s Fraunhofer ILT (Institute for Laser Technology), along with the Dresden-based IWS (Institute for Material and Beam Technology), the IWU (Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology) in Chemnitz, the IGD (Institute for Computer Graphics Research) in Darmstadt, and the Bremen-based IFAM (Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials), as well as the LZN Laser Zentrum Nord, which is located in Hamburg.

These institutes will be cooperating in a Virtual Lab, which will incorporate a closed digital map of the capacities and equipment of the participating institutes. Every entity, including all machines or products, will be assigned and described its own specific "digital twin". On the basis of these digital twins, real systems will be optimized through modeling and simulation processes. This will be helpful for error diagnosis, predictive analysis, and product and process optimization, amongst other things. Autonomous systems that no longer require much manual input will be one of the key factors to stimulate the development of next-generation metal AM techniques.

The LZN Laser Zentrum Nord GmbH, part of the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH), will have an important role to play in this pioneering new project. Its expertise is in the development of complete process chains for small and large companies from a wide variety of industries, and this is what led to its being incorporated into Fraunhofer’s operations as the Fraunhofer Institute for Additive Production Technology (IAPT). This should officially go ahead in January 2018.

This interdisciplinary research platform will see a number of practical demonstrations being carried out to test the feasibility and efficiency of their various innovations. For example, a steering knuckle is due to be manufactured using the multi-material AM process. The institutes will be integrating all of the steps in the entire process chain for this component, including designing or re-designing it, producing it with the selective laser melting process, setting up the support structures with laser metal deposition technology in order to remove them automatically, and post-processing the component. Fraunhofer ILT in Aachen will act as co-ordinator for this and all other projects, ensuring that scalable and robust AM processes are the result.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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