Lightweight construction

© Fraunhofer ILT, Aachen, Germany.

Additive manufacturing is a key technology for the production of lightweight components and structures. With laser powder bed fusion (LPBF), for example, complex functional components can be produced efficiently and economically, and lightweight construction potential can be realized through optimizing a component’s topology. Among the additive processes, laser material deposition (LMD) stands out as it can be easily used for free-form surfaces. For this reason, LMD can be applied flexibly to repair and coat components as well as to selectively individualize and functionalize prefabricated basic construction parts.

The processing of aluminum alloys with laser-based processes is particularly challenging since the material has a low degree of absorption and high thermal conductivity. By adapting LMD process control specifically to a material, therefore, Fraunhofer ILT is playing a decisive role in opening up lightweight construction applications with aluminum materials.

The institute’s extensive experience in the laser processing of fiber composite components and laser-based joining processes for lightweight components made of various materials also make it a successful partner in the aerospace sector.

LMD with aluminum alloys

Powder-based LMD makes it possible to produce structural elements such as tracks, coatings and solid bodies from aluminum alloys with the main alloying elements silicon, magnesium and zinc. The researchers at Fraunhofer ILT are investigating process regimes – with key process parameters such as feed rate and deposition rate – that range over orders of magnitude. Thanks to the further development of process control, new types of lightweight construction applications can now be implemented with aluminum.

Laser transmission welding

Laser transmission welding can be used to produce complex fiber composite components from several individual elements. Its decisive advantage: The required energy is deposited directly in the contact zone of the components to be joined, which means that the component remains otherwise unaffected. This eliminates the need for complex joining part preparation and long curing times. As a result, the process can be seamlessly integrated into the production flow, considerably saving both time and costs.

In addition, optimized optical adjustment of the radiation propagation enables industry to join materials with a high fiber content, while at the same time meeting the requirements for robust processes in series production.

Plastic-metal connections for the aerospace industry

Lightweight components often consist of different materials in order to make optimum use of their specific properties. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT have developed various laser-based joining processes that can be used to create plastic-metal joints that are stable over a long term for aerospace applications. In several projects, the laser experts have reliably and quickly joined dissimilar material combinations and demonstrated the joining techniques in various applications.

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