Applications and Process Chains for Laser Powder Bed Fusion

Brochure Applications and Process Chains for Laser Powder Bed Fusion

The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT has been developing the additive manufacturing process Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) since the mid-1990s and has consistently pursued the further development of the entire AM process chain ever since. The institute aims to qualify the LPBF process for use in industrial production and to integrate it into existing production processes. The experts at Fraunhofer ILT work with partners from industry and research in interdisciplinary cooperation.

LPBF – Trends and challenges

As natural resources are becoming scarcer and the demand for individualized products is growing, industry is facing major economic and ecological challenges. As a response to them, it is looking for potential savings offered by production pro-cesses such as Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) and functionally optimized components. Indeed, this process can meet requi-rements such as increased functionality at the lowest possible weight or increased mechanical and corrosion resistance at extreme temperatures, while manufacturing components at short throughput times.

As it builds components layer by layer directly from CAD data, LPBF can produce highly complex components from metallic materials without needing form defined tools, components that cannot be produced using conventional production tech-niques such as casting or machining. Since production-related restrictions are eliminated, novel components with innovative functionalities can be built, thus saving resources and reducing emissions.

For LPBF to be fully established in new and existing production environments, however, a number of challenges still need to be mastered, and Fraunhofer ILT is conducting in-depth research to find their solutions. Our range of services in this area includes:

  • Feasibility studies for various applications
  • Integrated development from design to LPBF production all the way to post processing
  • Development of new physical and digital process chains and their integration into existing production lines
  • Process development on commercial plant systems
  • Consulting, training and benchmarking

From the idea to the highly functionalized product

Thanks to competence in the field of LPBF, the Fraunhofer ILT experts can support you both individually and based on a unique solution from your initial idea to feasibility studies, concept development, all the way to series production.  Not only can you benefit from our many years of experience with various plant systems, but also from our well-founded know-how in the development of functionally optimized additive components.

Tailor-made digital and physical process chains

The properties of a component depend primarily on the design and component specifications. These essential aspects are determined by the process chain to be used, i. e. by the combination of starting material, LPBF plant and thermal and mechanical post processing of the component. For these reasons, the scientists at Fraunhofer ILT are investigating the cause and effect relationship along this process chain and developing targeted measures to develop the individual digital and physical process steps.

In addition to the development of customized process chains, the institute is also looking closely at how individual process steps influence the profitability of an overall process and the quality of the components. An example of this is the extent to which various LPBF production strategies and post-processing methods influence the achievable dimensional accuracy and surface quality of components.

Bundled competence in the LPBF sector

The LPBF process was developed at Fraunhofer ILT in the mid-1990s and has been continuously developed in close cooperation with leading industrial companies from the automotive, turbomachinery and toolmaking, aerospace and medical technology sectors, while the institute has taken the entire process chain into account. Through our cooperation with other Fraunhofer Institutes, the Aachen University of Applied Sciences, the Uniklinik RWTH Aachen, the RWTH  Aachen University, the Aachen Center for Additive Manufactur-ing (ACAM) and the International Center for Turbomachinery Manufacturing (ICTM), you also benefit from the bundled expertise in additive manufacturing in Aachen.

Equipment

In addition to profiting from our profound know-how in LPBF, you can also benefit from the extensive equipment at Fraunhofer ILT. Available at the institute are more than ten commercial systems from renowned manufacturers and various highly flexible LPBF laboratory systems as well as various peripheral and measuring equipment. The technical specifications include, among other things:

  • Commercial plant systems with build space sizes up to 128 dm³ and laser power (IR) up to the kW range
  • Preheating of build platforms up to 500 °C
  • Various powder application systems
  • Various peripheral devices for powder handling and post-processing of components
  • Various measurement systems for powder and component analysis such as light microscopy, strip light projection, tactile or optical roughness measurement, hardness measurement and scanning electron microscopy (SEM)