With metal 3D printing technology gaining more and more traction in the industrial field, three leading companies are joining hands to develop a production system for serial additive manufacturing.
Aerostructures supplier Premium Aerotec, which holds a leading position within its sector for this technology, is starting a joint project with EOS, the technology supplier for industrial
3D printing, and automobile major Daimler. Together, they will develop the next generation of additive manufacturing (AM) in their NextGenAM project. With this cooperation, the companies are laying the foundations for the implementation of this technology in large-scale serial manufacturing.
The objective of the project is to progress the automation of the entire industrial 3D printing process. For this, the NextGenAM project team will check the entire additive manufacturing process to see whether parts of it can be automated, from the delivery of metal powder to the processing stages after the build process itself.
By this measure, the partners hope to gain significant cost advantages and important foundations in order to use this technology for large-scale serial manufacturing in the future. The process stages before and after the actual manufacturing process constitute around 70 percent of the manufacturing costs. In addition to advanced system technology, the project also strives for a qualification of aluminium for use in industrial 3D printing.
“We are currently the leader for metal 3D printing in the aerospace industry,” said Dr. Thomas Ehm, the CEO of Premium Aerotec. “Now, we need to continue developing this technology extensively in order to expand its application spectrum significantly. Together with our partners, we can thus ensure state-of-the-art technology for our industry.”
Dr. Hans J Langer, founder and CEO EOS Group, said: “We are proud to be part of such a forward-looking project alongside Premium Aerotec and Daimler. This underlines the growing footprint of industrial 3D printing in serial production. As a technology pioneer in powder-based additive manufacturing we contribute full engagement and long-lasting expertise. With EOS platforms we push ahead the setup of this future production solution.”
“We invented the car, and we are actively shaping the future of mobility. The elements that we bring to this collaboration are our extensive experience in automotive materials and the qualification of those materials, as well as our know-how on efficient and large-scale capacity manufacturing processes in conjunction with component design that is topologically optimised and the latest calculation methods,” said Dr. Stefan Kienzle, head of Advance Development at Daimler AG.
Joining forces for future manufacturing
Each of the three partners contributes its own particular skills and experience. Premium Aerotec was the first manufacturer in the world to supply serial 3D-printed structural components for Airbus aircraft. Up to now, titanium powder has been used as material for this. EOS is the global technology and quality leader for high-end solutions in the area of industrial 3D printing. With the help of EOS, the additive manufacturing production process is to be integrated into an automated production line. The highly productive Quad-Laser System EOS M 400-4 for additive manufacturing of metal parts is at the core of the production process.
Automotive manufacturer Daimler provides comprehensive experience in large-scale serial production. The economically efficient aluminium-based complete system which is to be developed cooperatively over the course of NextGenAM shall be capable for automotive industry and – respectively adapted – for aerospace as well. This provides the opportunity to open up innovative 3D printing manufacturing technology for a wide range of applications.
The three partners will work together in order to achieve major progress in terms of efficiency and processing times. Together, they are investing several million euros in the planning of and construction of an automated production facility for additive manufacturing based serial production. At a technology centre in Varel (Germany), a development and test environment will be established over the next few months. The project is scheduled to begin in May 2017.