One of the oft-heard, less than positive comments about laser additive manufacturing has been serial production rates. As the technology moves closer to broader use on factory floors, sustained production throughput for cost-effective order processing has been cited as a drawback. As order volumes for processed components rose, the simple, yet costly solution has been multiple duplicate units. In fact, early laser additive manufacturing success stories out of the aerospace industry often featured banks of free-standing units, running 24/7 to turn out duplicate parts.
Coupled with this has been the upsizing of additively manufactured parts with the increased processing time per unit produced. If laser additive manufacturing is to become common on the factory floor, a less capital investment solution will be necessary and an innovative additive manufacturing equipment industry once again showed its mettle by introducing multiple laser unit machines. However, these also had limitations.
So a recent press release from industry pioneer SLM Solutions (Lübeck, Germany) was outstanding. The NXG XII 600, the latest addition to SLM Solutions' product portfolio, puts productivity on a whole new level, with 12 simultaneously operating 1 kW lasers, numerous technological innovations, and automated features. A radically improved use of laser time in the build process enables unrivaled build-up rates.
The new machine, designed from scratch for serial production, features a new optic system that is said to be the most compact on the market. It enables large overlap and is based on a tailor-made laser scanning system to best fit the build area. All 12 optics provide spot size definition via a double lens system called zoom function, enabling customers to choose between different spot sizes in the focal plane, which boosts build-up rates to 1000 cc/h and more. Producing a higher yield of parts in a single build job thereby enables mass production at low cost-per-part.
Sam O’Leary, COO at SLM Solutions, underlines that a new era of manufacturing has started: “The NXG Xll 600 is a revolution in industrial manufacturing. Up until now, the limit had been considered to be that of a quad laser system—what we deliver here with 12 kW of installed laser power is truly ground-breaking and a major step forward, not just for additive manufacturing, but for manufacturing in general. The potential cost reduction and productivity gains that this machine offers you means for the first time in the history of additive manufacturing, you can have true serial production fully integrated into your supply chain.”
To facilitate the integration of this unit into factories and supply chains, several automated features like an automatic build cylinder exchange, automatic build start, as well as an external preheating station and external depowder station are part of the solution.
To achieve homogeneous part properties all over the building platform, SLM Solutions has developed a new gas-flow setup along with an optimized chamber design and the company’s patented and proven sinter-wall technology. Customers can also rely on the patented bidirectional recoating, which has been redesigned to be more compact and gas flow-optimized.
The NXG XII 600 machine features a 600 × 600 × 600 mm build envelope, as well as a new thermal concept that reduces drifts to a minimum and allows customers to print seamless parts stitched together with up to 12 lasers. Additionally, the machine comes with a brand-new UI concept focusing on the operator, which optimizes the workflow and reduces training requirements.
The machine is available with two different powder handling options: a gravity-based and a vacuum-based solution, which both keep downtime between each build job to a minimum. Other features include an external preheating station and external depowder station that contribute to low production cost by reducing cost per part and overall build time.
For more information, please visit slm-solutions.com.