Additive laser manufacturing processes on the road to success

Laser deposition welding even more efficient / Lasers in machine tools are optimising production / Additive laser component production also for SMEs

A new era has started. Additive laser manufacturing processes are revolutionising the market. For example, "the market for laser systems for additive manufacturing has therefore increased annually by more than 25 per cent in the last five years. In particular, additive manufacturing of metal parts has been the main reason for the strong market growth," said Dr. Arnold Mayer, CEO of Optech Consulting. Additive manufacturing processes can be broken down into two main areas: whereas complete component production using laser construction technology is still in its infancy and is responsible for the strong growth, laser deposition welding with powder or wire has been established for many years. Laser deposition welding is used to carry out high-quality repairs and modifications of components from turbo machine production, toolmaking, mouldmaking and many other branches of industry. LASYS 2018, which will be held in Stuttgart from 5 to 7 June 2018 as a renowned trade fair for laser material processing, will also focus on additive laser manufacturing processes for the benefit of trade visitors.

Efficiency, cost-effectiveness and productivity will be the focal points in this respect.

New machine concepts make laser deposition welding even more efficient
"One of the biggest advantages of laser deposition welding is that welding into the component can be carried out on freeform surfaces with a near-neat shape. Since the amount of energy required here is very low, only small material distortions occur. This means that only a small machining allowance is necessary. During remachining, this produces a major advantage compared with other welding technologies," said Uri Resnik, CEO of OR LASER. Based on the example of tool modification of an injection moulded part using the direct metal deposition (DMD) process, the company shows that substantial time savings are possible from the third component onwards. "Continuous improvement in our machine concepts and control solutions," said Thomas Kimme, CEO of Laservorm, "produces advantages in terms of quality, productivity and cost-effectiveness." Laservorm's laser production systems are used, for example, to produce high temperature resistant, thermal barrier layers on aircraft turbine components or to repair components in power station turbines. "We integrate, for example, both the adaptive machining process and part measurement processes in the CNC control system. Consequently, data need not be transferred to external systems. This enables us to synchronise measurement routines relating to the machining process with our fast CNC control system in real time," said Kimme. According to the CEO, the bi-axiai, piezo-driven adjustable mirror system LV SpinScan is able to display fine and coarser weld beads in a ratio of 1:5. Kimme added: "We can therefore influence the weld bead geometry during machining."

When integrated in machine tools, lasers optimise production processes

"The integration of laser beam sources in machine tools is one of the most highly promising approaches for optimised production processes," said Dr. Christoph Ullmann, CEO of Laserline. Diode lasers are therefore used, for example, in a five-axis milling machine where they allow switching between additive and subtractive processing. The laser deposits the powder while the milling head cuts the metal. "The various applications of our diode lasers provide 'additive manufacturing‘ with other options which extend far beyond the interaction between additive powder deposition and subtractive metal cutting," emphasised Dr. Ullmann. He continued: "Lasers can be integrated, for example, in lathe turning/milling centres and can be used, apart from power deposition, for welding and hardening. In addition to the laser and powder nozzle, corresponding optics are installed for this purpose. Depending on the processing operation, it is possible to switch between these optics. Ultimately, complex manufacturing processes can therefore be carried out based on a single beam source. This naturally saves a great deal of time and is cost-effective."

Fibre lasers produce totally impermeable 3D solid bodies

The innovative fibre laser systems from IPG Laser use laser deposition welding to repair, for example, shut-off valves, crankshafts, O-rings and much more besides. Additive manufacturing was originally developed for prototype construction. "However, additive manufacturing processes have now become an entirely new industry for the production of 3D solid bodies," said Michael Stark, Project Manager at IPG Laser. Metal powder is melted layer by layer using laser technology to produce a complete component. "These methods use the enormous improvements, which have recently been made in computing power and movement and process control of laser production systems, to precisely deposit many different materials at high speed," said Stark. Selective laser melting (SLM) produces completely impermeable metal parts with improved mechanical properties. "Our fibre lasers in the YLR series have become established in this respect," said Michael Stark. "They are primarily characterised by high energy efficiency and low operating costs, and can be integrated compactly with up to 2 kW in a 19" rack design."

Additive generative manufacturing also affordable for SMEs

"In times of increasing digitalisation and Industry 4.0, the production environment of the future will require ever more intelligent systems and solution approaches along the entire process chain of additive manufacturing," emphasised Resnik, CEO of OR LASER. OR LASER has therefore developed a high-end 3D metal printer for components and designs which feature almost every geometrical shape, but cannot be produced using traditional manufacturing methods. This printer will also be presented at LASYS 2018. "Our objective was to make 3D printing accessible and, thus, affordable, for both prototype manufacturers and small and medium-sized companies, e.g. in the designer, dental technology and jewellery industries. We achieved this objective with our latest development," said Resnik. Components with filigree structures, high surface quality and a high density are built up quickly and easily without using any additional tools. The print data are therefore handled and processed directly from the CAD file through the 3D printing module in the CAD/CAM software.

Something exciting in future

Additive manufacturing is being developed still further in current research projects. Thomas Kimme, CEO of Laservorm, summarised: "Hardware and software solutions for bionic lightweight construction structures are required, for example, for the future challenges posed by laser deposition welding. It is also necessary to improve the process monitoring methods accompanying manufacturing in order to satisfy the increasing demands for quality control and documentation." Decision-makers will find out at LASYS 2018 how laser systems are now helping to optimise production processes and will continue to do so in future. The inspiring accompanying programme of LASYS 2018 will also provide visitors with a great opportunity to enhance their knowledge of the current state of laser technology for material processing. For example, the Bavarian Laser Centre will hold an exciting workshop on the topic of "Deposition and repair welding". The first-class workshop "Stuttgart Laser Marketplace" will also be held again. Dr. Arnold Mayer from Optech Consulting will announce the latest data regarding the international market for lasers and laser systems with an eye on the future. Messe Stuttgart is expecting around 200 exhibitors at LASYS 2018. Visitors from many industries will be enthralled by the state-of-the-art laser systems, machines and processes, as well as services for laser material processing.


LASYS is the only international trade fair to consistently focus on system solutions in laser material processing. Since the start of the trade fair in 2008, it has successfully become established as a user platform for the latest laser systems, machines and processes. LASYS covers all industries and materials, and is primarily aimed at decision-makers from international industry. The focal points of the trade fair are all proven, but also innovative manufacturing processes, applications and potential uses of lasers in industrial manufacturing. The German Engineering Federation (VDMA) acts as the promotional supporter of LASYS.
LASYS 2018 will be held at the Stuttgart Trade Fair Centre from 5 to 7 June 2018.
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