In powder-bed fusion of metals, extremely thin layers of metal powder are applied to a building platform. This powder layer is melted by a focused laser beam and binds to the underlying material layer during solidification. This process is repeated layer by layer until a finished component is created. Due to the layered structure, complex and weight-saving geometries can be realised. After removal of excess powder, the finished component is then usually post-processed depending on the application.
Flexible adaptation of the laser spot enables efficient and cost-effective production
The aim of the recently launched EU project InShaPe is to further develop metal-based additive manufacturing. The improved manufacturing process is based on a high-performance optical module with programmable intensity distribution and AI techniques to determine the optimal beam shape for the target object, determined for example by the material type and geometry. InShaPe also develops an innovative process monitoring and control system for quality analysis that integrates multispectral imaging, i.e. simultaneous observation of light of different wavelengths into the area of additive manufacturing.
“The combination of these two new technologies enables efficient and advanced exposure strategies so that even the most demanding production of complex special components works right away”, says InShaPe coordinator Prof. Dr.-Ing. Katrin Wudy from the School of Engineering and Design at the Technical University of Munich.
InShaPe makes metal-based additive manufacturing faster, cheaper and more sustainable
The consortium has set itself the goal of further developing this form of additive manufacturing into a commercially wide-ranging manufacturing technology that shall outperform conventional manufacturing processes such as die casting in terms of precision and sustainability in the future. This is due to the fact that the adaptation of the laser beam shape and the new exposure options enable an energy- and material-efficient production process. At the same time, the InShaPe innovation aims at demonstrating the competitiveness of additive manufacturing compared to traditional manufacturing processes in terms of unit costs, flexibility and production volume. The AI-supported control and operation should also enable non-highly qualified workers to use the new process.
The overall goal of InShaPe is to further develop and demonstrate an innovative powder-bed fusion process for metals (PBF-LB/M) for four industrial applications in the aerospace, energy and automotive industry. Compared to the current state of the art, the following advantages should be achieved:
· a seven times higher production rate
· over 50 percent lower costs
· 60 percent less energy consumption
· 30 percent less waste
In the long term, the successful development and marketing of InShaPe technologies is intended to strengthen the European PBF-LB/M manufacturing industry as a leading provider of highly complex parts and set new best-in-class standards for digital, resource-efficient and agile laser-based production methods.
About the EU project InShaPe
InShaPe started on June 1, 2022 and will run until the end of May 2025. The project is being carried out by the Technical University of Munich with nine other partners from France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Spain. The project is managed by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Katrin Wudy, Head of the Professorship of Laser-based Additive Manufacturing at the Technical University of Munich www.mec.ed.tum.de/en/lbam. The EU is supporting the project with EUR 6.8 million under the European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, “Horizon Europe”.