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LMD takes off for industrial additive manufacturing

17 Nov 2016

At formnext 2016, Trumpf will showcase LMD technology for aviation industry and more; also new software partnership with Siemens.

Laser system manufacturer Trumpf is showcasing new solutions and applications for laser metal deposition technology at the formnext trade exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany, this week. The company says it believes LMD “has now matured into a strong additive technique for industrial applications.” It is used for applications such as repairing, coating, refining, joining, or creating metal parts from scratch.

At formnext, Trumpf’s primary focus will be on repair applications in the aviation industry and the combination of various laser-based technologies in a single machine.

In aviation, the LMD is used to repair gas turbines or compressor blades. In a press release ahead of the show, Trumpf stated, “Blisk (blade integrated disk, comprising a disk and several blades) technology is becoming increasingly popular in the field of engine and turbine construction.

“However, if a blisk becomes worn or damaged, it is awkward and expensive to replace,” the company adds. “LMD makes it possible to repair and restore blisks by mending damaged sections or cracks using laser and powder. Through this expedient alone, turbine and engine manufacturers can reduce their repair costs by up to 92 percent.”

High build-up rates

In addition to repairing high-value components, the refining and coating of components continues to be one of the main fields of application for LMD. The laser creates a weld pool on the surface of a substrate and fuses the metal powder, which is added coaxially into the required shape. The deposited volume can grow in any spatial direction; build-up rates can reach as much as 500cm3/hour.

In certain cases, LMD can even provide an alternative to conventional joining technologies; the bridging of gaps is a good example of such an application. Trumpf can equip three- or five-axis machines with LMD technology.

At formnext, the company will show how to combine LMD with other manufacturing techniques in a single machine. For example, the compact TruLaser Cell 3000 can be fitted with a laser head that combines additive manufacturing and cutting technologies.

Industrial 3D printing

Trumpf will also present its new 3D printers based on laser metal fusion, the TruPrint 3000 and TruPrint 5000. These medium format machines use lasers to generate parts from a powder bed, layer by layer, up to 300mm in diameter and 400mm in height.

An ingenious tool-change cylinder concept allows the construction chamber and supply cylinders to be switched easily. With the TruPrint 3000, Trumpf says it is “putting the spotlight on the complete process chain for additive manufacturing”.

The first step in this process is preparing the data for the 3D design and production program. With its TruTops Print with NX software package, Trumpf is offering “a comprehensive software solution with a standardized user interface”.

The laser maker’s approach to additive manufacturing also addresses the Industry 4.0 protocol under the TruConnect brand, with the aim of optimizing business processes across the board. Users can apply any of a variety of solutions to monitor, analyze and remotely adjust a wide range of condition parameters during the manufacturing process.

Both of the TruPrint systems can make complex metal parts from the powder form of any weldable material such as steels, nickel alloys, titanium or aluminum. Up to 75 liters of powder are available for such jobs – around 2.5x the construction volume, without refilling.

An automated sieve station refines several hundred kilograms of powder every hour, thereby ensuring consistent powder quality and availability. Before powder is delivered, the Trumpf system performs an quality check to ensure it meets the job's requirements.

Productivity boost

With an eye on the next generation of 3D printers, Trumpf says it is working on machine concepts to improve these additive processes, The TruPrint 5000 demonstrator at formnext is based on the multi-laser principle; it features three 500W lasers, which are simultaneously active at multiple points in the process chamber.

Production parts can be exposed to all three lasers at the same time. Smart exposure strategies determine optimal laser paths. In addition, the integrated preheating function of the TruPrint 5000 can raise the workpiece temperature to 500 C, meeting the manufacturing requirements for large-scale industrial production.

Market launch for this multi-laser system is scheduled for late 2017.

Trumpf and Siemens software

Trumpf and engineering giant Siemens have formed a partnership to help industrialize laser metal fusion technology and make the additive manufacturing process for metal parts an integral part of the production process.

The two companies – who will present their partnership at formnext – are to develop a software solution for the design and preparation of 3D printed metal parts. Their aim is to integrate and streamline the entire powder-bed-based laser metal fusion process for Trumpf printing machines into Siemens NX software. The package is intended to address part design and engineering for additive manufacturing as well as 3D print preparation with integrated Trumpf technology.

“Our combined solution will offer customers a high degree of process reliability thanks to its use of smart product models through all phases of the process,” said Tony Hemmelgarn, CEO and President, Siemens PLM Software. “There will be no need for data conversion because the tools for design, simulation, 3D printing and NC programming of metal parts are integrated into one system.”

Peter Leibinger, head of Trumpf’s Laser Technology-Electronics commented, “Our partnership will result in an optimum interaction between machine and software so customers can move forward with designs optimized for additive manufacturing.”

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