Events are an everyday occurrence at the RWTH Aachen campus, but this was something else. Some 40 guests from industry and research were invited to attend the official opening of the world’s largest selective laser melting (SLM) facility. Thanks to its extremely large build envelope (800 x 400 x 500 mm³), it can manufacture metal components with a maximum volume of 160 I.
Working together to further develop the SLM process chain
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 team work to conduct the three-year SLM-XL research project. 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 achieve important goals.
First, the SLM-XL unit is to accelerate the production of large-volume functional prototypes (for the automotive industry, for instance) in order to significantly shorten the often extremely long and expensive development processes. Second, the project team 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.
Entry into the XXL segment
It’s not just the participants in the SLM-XL research project – which has more than 15 project partners from several industry sectors – that benefit from the new SLM facility. According to Sebastian Bremen, team manager SLM productivity at Fraunhofer ILT: “The new joint SLM facility offers SMEs the opportunity to implement their own additive projects on an XXL scale using a facility that costs two million euros; a price tag generally too high for any individual company. Thanks to the Aachen Center for 3D Printing, SMEs now also have access to a technology that can make them more competitive and innovative. In addition, this unit is another important step towards establishing a joint research group between Fraunhofer ILT and the University of Aachen.”