21 Jun 2017
University and Fraunhofer venture is said to be “the world’s largest SLM facility”.Aachen University of Applied Sciences and the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT). The partners have ambitious plans for what they are calling “the world’s largest SLM facility” (selective laser melting), which is located in the new Digital Photonic Production industry building on the RWTH Aachen campus.
Concept Laser’s new XLine 2000R selective laser melting system plays a key role in the SLM-XL research project, which aims to accelerate and optimize the entire manufacturing process for large, metal components. Scientists are working closely with the Digital Photonic Production research campus, which is located in the same building and funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
Earlier this month, some 40 guests from industry and research attended the official opening of the SLM facility. With its extremely large build envelope (measuring 800 x 400 x 500 mm), it can manufacture metal components with a maximum volume of 160 I.
Working together to progress SLM
A primary goal of this new development in Aachen is to further develop the entire SLM process chain for large-volume metal components. The Aachen Center for 3D Printing is relying on team work to conduct the three-year SLM-XL research project. Local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as established additive manufacturing companies are collaborating with experts from the University of Aachen and Fraunhofer ILT to achieve a range of important goals.
First, the SLM-XL unit will work on accelerating the production of large-volume functional prototypes (for the automotive industry, for instance) in order to significantly shorten the often extremely long and expensive development processes.
Second, the project team is then planning to 3D print large-volume tools that are adapted to provide custom functions, that are either impossible or very difficult and expensive to manufacture using conventional processes.
The the SLM-XL research project is not only expecting that its participants will be the beneficiaries of this research (there are more than 15 project partners from several industry sectors).
Sebastian Bremen, team manager SLM productivity at Fraunhofer ILT, explained, “The new joint SLM facility offers SMEs the opportunity to implement their own additive projects on an XXL scale using a facility that costs two million euros; a price tag generally too high for any individual company.
“Thanks to this new Aachen Center for 3D Printing, a wide range of SMEs now also have access to a technology that can make them more competitive and innovative. In addition, this unit is another important step towards establishing a joint research group between Fraunhofer ILT and the University of Aachen.”