Albuquerque, NM - Optomec's LENS Print Engine for metal components has been adopted by the Center for Remanufacturing and Resources Recovery (C3R) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT; Rochester, NY).
Related: Optomec awarded $4M to implement metal 3D printing for US Air Force repair applications
The system at C3R will retrofit LENS 3D metal printing capabilities within a conventional CNC vertical milling machine, enabling a hybrid additive/subtractive manufacturing work cell. The hybrid manufacturing work cell will be used for both research and commercial production in the remanufacture and repair of high-value metallic components used by the transportation, medical, and aviation industries.
The LENS process can either fully build 3D metal parts, when replacement parts are no longer available, or selectively and precisely add materials onto an existing metal component of almost any 3D shape, making it also ideally suited to perform repair/remanufacturing operations.
The process leverages LENS "blown powder" technology, which is an industrial-proven method to add metal directly onto an existing metal part. The LENS print head delivers powdered metal and a highly focused laser beam to the damaged part area, enabling repair of components in a way not possible with traditional repair methods such as welding. The low heat input of the LENS process creates a lower heat-affected zone (HAZ) of the part under repair, and reduces the chance of distortion.
The LENS Print Engine’s modular, open system architecture allows for easy integration with either new or pre-owned CNC machine tools. This open approach enables customers to implement additive manufacturing technology in a cost-effective manner by leveraging existing capital assets and speeding productive use through a common human machine interface (HMI) already known by machinists.
In a similar vein, the open system approach extends to the metal-powder feedstock used by the system, where Optomec supports third-party suppliers to optimize the performance of their materials for use with the LENS process. This enables LENS customers to purchase feedstock directly from multiple sources, further reducing cost and single-source supply risks.
C3R will utilize their LENS hybrid system as part of an automated work cell for remanufacturing components. The automated work cell will include a standalone 3D laser scanner that will provide data describing the defective area of the part, which can be used to create a repair tool path. The hybrid manufacturing machine will process the tool path and add material where needed and then perform finish machining, all with one set-up operation.
The C3R hybrid repair work cell will be available to other universities or commercial companies, which can contract with RIT for funded development or use the work cell for themselves for development and production work.