Direct part production continues to grow

Paul Boughton
Additive layer manufacturing for direct part production continues to grow and is fast becoming a significant part of the overall ALM industry. The many benefits of this process have seen the technology embraced by a number of manufacturing sectors including the Automotive Industry, where the technology is already being used, for not only rapid prototyping, but pilot production and small series production of engine and other mechanical components.

The ability to produce components in a wide range of materials including steel, titanium and aluminium alloys, presents the industry with immense potential for direct part production using ALM.

Concept Laser is part of the Hofmann Innovation Group, based in Lichtenfels,  Bavaria, Germany. Since its inception in 2001, the company has been regarded as a pioneer in the field of generative metal laser fusing with their unique LaserCUSING technology. Now, with more than 100 systems installed, Concept Laser has become one of the leading providers in this sector.

The LaserCUSING process provides significant benefits to Automotive and Motor Sport companies when developing new components. The 'tool-less' principle of manufacturing components means that within only a few days (Manufacturing 24 h/day), components can be produced using original material with corresponding material characteristics. The relatively short timescales involved in producing parts means rapid integration of the component into a test vehicle, ultimately reducing development times.

LaserCUSING has been used to manufacture components such as a racing exhaust manifold. Produced on a Concept Laser M2 cusing machine from CL 31AL (AlSi 10Mg), using a 200W fibre laser system, this component was able to be directly fitted to the test vehicle upon completion.

Other Automotive components produced using this technology include oil pump housings, wheel suspension components and thin 'sheet metal' style parts which were used in the development of a prototype vehicle. In each case the parts were produced direct from CAD using 3D/CAD-design software systems such as CATIA/ Pro-Engineer and AutoCAD.

Concept Laser has also developed a range of materials for use with the LaserCUSING process, and ideally suited to the production of Automotive components, including:

CL 20ES (1.4404)/ stainless steel: stainless steel for technical prototypes and small series production; acid and corrosion resistant.

CL 31Al (AlSi10Mg)/ aluminium alloy: low weight; for technical prototypes and small series production.

CL 40Ti (TiAl6V4)/ titanium alloy: titanium alloy for lightweight components in racing; for technical prototypes and small series production

Concept Laser has developed a comprehensive Quality Management System for use with their LaserCUSING Systems. Features include real-time inspection of the melt pool, online laser and performance monitoring, software modules for analysis and report generation following the build process, redundant monitoring and control of the oxygen concentration in the process gas atmosphere and analysis of the powder quality together with excellent preservation of the powder quality using an external and fully automatic sieving station.

ES Technology Limited, has since 2008 been the exclusive United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland distributor for Concept Laser’s Additive Manufacturing systems. ES Technology is responsible for the sales, marketing and support of Concept Laser’s systems within these territories.

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