3D printing facility opens in Aachen

A primary goal of the facility is to further develop the entire selective laser melting process chain for large-volume metal components.

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On June 1, 2017, the Aachen University of Applied Sciences and the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT; both in Aachen, Germany) officially opened the Aachen Center for 3D Printing, located in the new Digital Photonic Production industry building on the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) Aachen campus.

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On June 1, 2017, the world’s largest selective laser melting (SLM) facility for metal components was inaugurated at the new Digital Photonic Production industry building on the RWTH Aachen campus. (Courtesy: Concept Laser GmbH)

Concept Laser's XLine 2000R selective laser melting (SLM; a 3D printing [also known as additive manufacturing] method) system will play a pivotal role in the SLM-XL research project, which is intended 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; Bonn, Germany).

Around 40 guests from industry and research were invited to attend the official opening of the SLM facility, which is said to be the largest in the world to date. Thanks to its extremely large build envelope (800 × 400 × 500mm3), the facility's system can manufacture metal components with a maximum volume of 160 I.

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(L-R) Prof. Dr. Doris Samm, prorector for research and innovation at the Aachen University of Applied Sciences; Prof. Dr. Andreas Gebhard, dean of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechatronics at the Aachen University of Applied Sciences; and Prof. Dr. Reinhart Poprawe, director of Fraunhofer ILT. (Courtesy: Aachen University of Applied Sciences/Arnd Gottschalk)

A primary goal is to further develop the entire SLM process chain for large-volume metal components. The Aachen Center for 3D Printing is relying on teamwork to conduct the three-year SLM-XL research project, which has more than 15 project partners from several industry sectors. Local small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as well as renowned additive manufacturing companies, are collaborating with experts from the University of Aachen and Fraunhofer ILT to accelerate the production of large-volume functional prototypes (for the automotive industry, for instance) to significantly shorten extremely long and expensive development processes.

The project team also plans 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.

For more information, please visit www.ilt.fraunhofer.de/en.html.

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