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Makino and Fraunhofer ILT deploy EHLA to enhance additive manufacturing

01 Jul 2024

Integrating EHLA3D in 5-axis CNC platform helps laser-process complex geometries.

Laser technology plays a central role in manufacturing sector, especially in the field of Additive Manufacturing. In this context, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT) and Makino, a manufacturer of machine tools headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, ventured a new technological advance.

The partners wanted to transfer the high-speed laser cladding technique EHLA (“Extreme High Speed Laser Application”) to a five-axis CNC platform. To do this, however, kinematics had to be developed to enable fast and dynamic movement of the machining head for the EHLA process.

Min-Uh Ko, Group Leader for Additive Manufacturing and Repair LMD at ILT, commented, “Many expensive components have to be replaced, even for minor defects. A flexible system like the one from Makino with a rotary and tilting table actually offers good repair options, which saves costs for new production, and minimizes downtime.”

Need for speed

Makino’s task in the project was not only limited to the CNC hardware, but also to the process control, as this had to be completely redesigned. The challenge was to adapt the machine to high accelerations and to precisely control the interaction between the laser beam and the material.

The machine tool developed by the Makino subsidiary in Singapore achieves an effective feed speed of up to 30 meters per minute, which is a significant increase compared to conventional systems.

Makino’s Dr. Johannes Finger, commented, “Our move into additive manufacturing, especially high-speed LMD, represents a strategic expansion of the Makino portfolio. The jointly developed five-axis CNC machine now enables us to quickly and precisely produce complex geometrical shapes with materials that are difficult to weld, such as high-strength steels or carbide.”

ILT contributed its extensive expertise in the field of laser-based manufacturing processes and brought its comprehensive infrastructure and specialized laboratory facilities to the project. The institute made a decisive contribution to optimizing the process parameters for processing various materials and ultimately transferring the new technology to the industrial pilot customer Toolcraft AG.

“Optimizing the heat input is a critical aspect of the EHLA3D process,” commented materials expert Min-Uh Ko. “By adjusting the feed rate and powder mass flows, we can precisely control the heat input, reduce the heat-affected zone and ensure uniform coating quality.”

Repair and coating

The repair and maintenance of high-quality tool and machine parts exposed to high loads during regular operation was one of the project objectives. The partners were able to achieve this with the adapted EHLA3D technology.

As it can now apply wear-resistant coatings precisely and efficiently, EHLA3D has become a cost-effective solution for extending the service life of components in various sectors, including mining and heavy industry.

A key aspect of future developments will be to identify and validate new areas of application for the EHLA3D process. Since the material systems that can be processed have become so flexible, this extended EHLA process can now be transferred to applications that could not normally be investigated since the LMD process has such limitations.

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