Technology Focus Additive Manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing enables engineers to meet the highest demands placed on design and material properties for individualized or complex components. Laser-based processes prove to be very advantageous here since they can be flexibly adapted to the layers and materials to be generated and are, at the same time, productive and save on resources.

Since the mid-1990s, Fraunhofer ILT has been advancing Additive Manufacturing – especially of metallic components –with Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) or powder or wire-based Laser Material Deposition (LMD). The institute focuses on optimizing economic efficiency by looking at the process chains in their entirety, from component design to process control and systems engineering all the way to finishing.

Laser Powder Bed Fusion makes it possible to manufacture complex functional components economically while using resources efficiently. Since it can create components with geometric features that cannot be made with conventional manufacturing, the process has a number of advantages and is suitable for applications in various industries such as turbomachinery, aerospace, automotive and medical technology. Fraunhofer ILT focuses on developing innovative geometry-adapted exposure concepts and systems engineering as well as function-adapted application components and their industrial process chains. In addition to LPBF, the institute’s competence area is involved in process and system development for the laser-based production of functionally adapted polymer components using selective laser sintering (as part of a cooperative research group with the Aachen University of Applied Sciences – FH Aachen).

Laser Material Deposition can be used to coat, repair or additively manufacture components.
© Fraunhofer ILT, Aachen, Germany.
Laser Material Deposition can be used to coat, repair or additively manufacture components.
LPBF manufactured component with integrated sensor.
© Fraunhofer ILT, Aachen, Germany.
LPBF manufactured component with integrated sensor.

With Laser Material Deposition, and in particular with the multiple award-winning process “Extreme High-speed Laser Material Deposition EHLA,” metal tracks with layer thicknesses between 0.01 mm and 2 mm can be applied to almost any metallic base material in a very short time and at high precision. When several welding beads are superimposed, the process can produce two-dimensional coatings, e.g., for wear and corrosion protection, or functional coatings. When several layers are deposited on top of each other, the process can also be used for repair and Additive Manufacturing.

To improve robustness and reproducibility, the institute determines how powder materials, system components and exposure strategies influence process stability and component quality. With inline process monitoring methods, energy efficiency can be increased and reject rates reduced. By using digital twins, engineers can determine component properties prior to production and simulate adapted process strategies.

Component properties can be specifically optimized as new materials for Additive Manufacturing are developed, for example, ODS materials or eutectic alloys. Material-adapted exposure strategies and temperature control ensure that cracks are prevented in materials difficult to weld and that stresses and distortions in components are reduced.

The extensive plant equipment of Fraunhofer ILT consists of commercial systems and flexible laboratory systems developed in-house. We support customers from industry and research from idea generation and consulting to the development of adapted processes, system technology and process monitoring, all the way to integration into existing industrial environments.

Find out more about our range of services on the websites linked in the blue box.

Project results

Reports from the last few years in the field Laser Material Processing

Selected Press Releases

More information on research and development at Fraunhofer ILT