Product Details Supplier Info More products

ES Technology has revealed that additive layer manufacturing (ALM) for direct part production has been embraced by a number of manufacturing sectors, not least the aerospace industry.

The ability to produce components in a range of materials including hot-work steels, stainless steel, cobalt chromes and Inconel, plus titanium and aluminium alloys, presents the aerospace industry with large potential for direct part production using ALM.

ALM has already been used to produce small and medium-sized aerospace components, and having realised the potential of the process, aerospace manufacturers are seeking to produce larger, more complex parts.

Material Solutions operates an ALM applications development centre with a particular focus on the aerospace sector.

Carl Brancher of Material Solutions, said: ‘ALM in high-performance materials is well suited for complex thin-walled structures in gas turbines.

‘However, as a new technology it is not yet well understood or validated by potential users and, like all manufacturing processes, to get the best from metal ALM requires the designer to understand the process capabilities and materials’ mechanical properties,’ he added.

Brancher said Materials Solutions is bridging this gap by providing manufactured parts, consulting (principally to the aerospace market), and working with equipment and materials vendors to develop the technology for mass production.

The collaboration between Material Solutions and its industry clients has so far led to the production of a range of components over the last three years.

This programme has now reached the limit of component size that can be produced using the existing Material Solutions ALM systems.

With the continuing pressure from aerospace manufacturers to develop the capability to produce larger parts, Material Solutions turned to Concept Laser to explore the potential for building larger components using Concept Laser’s M3 linear system.

The fundamental principles of the M3 linear make it a novel development in the world of ALM.

Unlike other machines the M3 linear does not have fixed optics but a combination of galvo scanning mirrors and linear direct drives to move the scanning head.

Already used to build larger volume components, the M3 linear has all of the pre-requisites for up-scaling to enable production of the types of components envisaged by the aerospace industry.

It is not only the physical attributes of the system that lend themselves to production of large components but the process control and laser scanning strategy already developed by Concept Laser, which will eliminate the potential pitfalls of accuracy errors on large components.

Having established the potential of the M3 linear machine, Material Solutions set out to design a test component that would qualify certain build criteria and which could also be used to educate and inform aerospace designers of ‘Additive Friendly’ design features and techniques.

These include reducing supports and using larger flowing radii to assist in reducing the time to build and subsequently, component production and finishing costs.

The test part incorporates many features such as small diameter holes, threaded features, thin rib sections and areas of thick material section all typically found in aerospace components.

The greatest challenges for Concept Laser were that a component of this size had never before been built and added to this the part was required in an unexpectedly short timescale.

The finished component demonstrates the current capabilities of the technology in terms of size (300mm diameter), accuracy and surface finish.

While this part does not yet satisfy the ultimate demands of aerospace manufacturers it clearly confirms the capabilities of the process, the scalable potential of Concept Laser’s M3 linear machine and the sound base which Concept Laser have for further development of the M3 linear for large aerospace components.

There are also practical aspects to be considered when building large parts.

Larger volume components require greater volumes of powder and hence a robust and stable platform to accommodate the weight.

Having then built a large volume, and potentially very heavy component, safe and easy removal is essential.

The M3 linear machine is built around a substantial fabricated framework and already incorporates a removable build module enabling the module and component to be easily positioned under an overhead crane if required.

The success of this exercise and the current collaboration between Material Solutions and Concept Laser will be used to define the future strategies that will eventually see parts manufactured by ALM techniques leave the laboratory and take to the air.

ES Technology Ltd is an Oxford company with a 22 year history of manufacturing laser-based manufacturing equipment and providing a range of associated services and products. Our four business units are. Design and build of special purpose laser systems. We use a range of industrial lasers to provide customers with turnkey machines for laser marking, cutting and welding.Systems incorporate handling such as robot, conveyor or bowl-feed; motion and control elements such as XY/rotary tables and of course the appropriate laser and beam delivery for the job.Control is via PC/PLC and dedicated front-end software provides the human interface and integrates barcode readers, vision, etc as required. Laser jobshop.We use 10 laser systems to provide laser marking on a subcontract basis on plastic, metal, ceramic or wood.Products and components receive logos, serial numbers, barcodes and other functional marks.We also perform fine metal cutting and microperforating services. Distribution of rapid prototyping/rapid manufacturing systems.ES is the exclusive UK distributor of Concept Laser LaserCUSING systems which make parts in titanium, aluminium, stainless or tool steel and inconel directly from 3D CAD designs by additive layer build. Optical components.Laser diodes, safety eyewear and acousto-optic components/wafers are distributed.

View full profile