How has the use of the powder bed machines developed since you started to offer the LASERTEC SLM series?
Additive Manufacturing used to be considered a procedure for sample construction and prototype applications. Today, it is increasingly being used in industrial applications, where it is subject to other requirements: The focus is increasingly turning towards machine availability and productivity, with users placing more importance on work safety, and where the quality of the component is decisive. We take these factors into consideration in the LASERTEC SLM series. The rePLUG powder management module offers a closed powder circuit, guaranteeing the highest work safety. When it comes to component quality, we’re setting a benchmark with the LASERTEC 12 SLM. It is the most precise powder bed machine in relation to its installation size. Added to this are future multi-laser applications to increase the productivity of the SLM technology in a sustainable way.
Which industries use the technology and what kind of applications take centre-stage?
Our customers come from all sectors – from the aviation industry through to dental technology. LASERTEC SLM machines demonstrate their strengths where complex components with a high degree of functional integration are demanded; for example, cooling channels in cutting tools. The powder bed process is also an advantage for batch size 1 or small series with high variance. Plus, spare part production is becoming more and more important across all sectors.
Is SLM technology already being used in serial production?
Yes, medical technology is the pioneer here. Individual implants, prostheses and dental applications are being manufactured successfully using the powder bed process. The aviation industry is also on the brink of serial production. SLM components are already undergoing the certification process here. Motor sport and general engineering manufacture small series. DMG MORI also uses additively manufactured components in its machines; including a filter for the LASERTEC SLM series, a powder nozzle for the LASERTEC 65 3D and a coolant ring nozzle for the ULTRASONIC series.
What are the advantages of the individual LASERTEC SLM models in relation to the application?
The LASERTEC 12 SLM, which I have already mentioned, is highly precise with a focus diameter of 35 μm and offers the largest build volume in this class. It measures 125×125×200 mm. The machine is optimal for filigree components with high standards of precision and also available as the LASERTEC 12 SLM Dental model, especially for the dental market. It has more than 100 mm travel in the Z-direction instead of 200 mm. With its build volume of 300×300×300 mm, the LASERTEC 30 SLM 2nd Generation offers sufficient space for a wide range of components. One thing that all LASERTEC SLM machines have in common is powder management by means of rePLUG powder management. On the one hand, the closed powder circuit ensures the work safety that was mentioned at the start and, on the other, the powder can be easily changed within two hours, thanks to the rePLUG powder module. This is the fastest option on the market.
What sort of possibilities do you see for increasing the productivity of powder bed machines?
When it comes to the hardware, multi-laser systems that directly increase the productivity of the machine are ideal. Automation solutions will also gain more importance in the future. Automation of powder management is the first approach, and here we are really very advanced already with the rePLUG powder module. Setup and component handling, including removing the powder, can also be automated through new machine concepts or aided by external robots. Innovative software features contribute to productivity, for example, optimised exposure strategies or the control of the build platform temperature – two new OPTOMET functions we are presenting at the EMO.
OPTOMET Max Power ensures optimised exposure strategies and an improved utilisation of the machine performance, enabling up to 50% higher build-up rates. OPTOMET temperature control reduces residual stresses in the component due to active control of the build platform temperature. This creates constant conditions at the process level.
What other innovations will you be showing at the EMO?
The powder bed process is frequently used for machining to expand the user’s existing machine fleet. That’s why we are presenting a LASERTEC SLM series quick-change pallet system, which allows a powder bed machine to be even better integrated into a process chain with downstream CNC machining.
Moreover, we have also expanded the existing product categories “Machining”, “Handling”, “Measuring” and “Monitoring” of the DMG MORI Qualified Products program to include peripherals and accessories for Additive Manufacturing. This focuses on the free choice of powder on one hand and the qualified and integral powder circuit on the other. Powder recirculation and recycling with selected DMQP partners offer an economic option for reusing the high-priced powder materials.
What is the difference between the Additive Manufacturing cycle of materials and that of the competitor?
DMG MORI makes it possible to freely select the powder material – within the realm of what is technically feasible and sensible. The rePLUG powder module is used for this, for example. Although we are not bound to any powder manufacturer, we do recommend preferred partners whose products have been certified by the DMQP seal of quality. The powder is ready to use as it is supplied with the corresponding parameters. The powder quality is subsequently validated on a LASERTEC SLM machine in addition to the applicable official quality requirements and specifications. This offer puts us in the position of being able to offer our customers everything in the area of powder bed technology from one source.