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3D Printing From the Additive Machine to the Hybrid Plant

Author / Editor: Eric Herrmann / Janina Seit

OR Laser develops both 3D printers and hybrid systems for metal printing. Some of them can be seen at Metav 2018.

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The hybrid press Creator hybrid from OR Laser uses the SLM process for printing and then moves on to milling. The milling head can even machine internal contours, undercuts and cooling channels.
The hybrid press Creator hybrid from OR Laser uses the SLM process for printing and then moves on to milling. The milling head can even machine internal contours, undercuts and cooling channels.
(Source: OR Laser)

The advantages of industrial 3D printing are well known and described. It offers economic benefits because lighter and yet more stable products can be produced with it. At the same time, fewer component parts are required and expensive tools are eliminated. However, the cost involved in purchasing and operating additive manufacturing equipment is still a major hurdle, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The OR Las Cube is a DMD machine, equipped with a special powder nozzle.
The OR Las Cube is a DMD machine, equipped with a special powder nozzle.
(Source: OR Laser)

More than three years ago, OR Laser has started to focus on precisely this aspect when it began with the development of new platforms for the additive production of metal parts. The aim was to introduce cost-effective systems onto the market without having to make any compromises with regard to the quality of the parts produced. The first result of these efforts was the OR Las Creator, which was presented to the public at the end of 2016. The development process focused especially on the needs of SMEs, therefore the manufacturer now promises an economic entry product at half the cost of comparable systems that offers undiminished quality and more frequent manufacturing intervals. Among other things, the result is based on more than 20 years of experience in the development and manufacturing of applications such as laser systems for laser welding, laser engraving, coating and laser cutting.

Additive Manufacturing with the DMD Process

In the field of additive manufacturing, the company has been offering commercially applicable solutions for many years, including its systems for 3D metal printing. In cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology, an innovative powder nozzle has been developed for the Diodeline series, e.g. the OR Las Cube.

By using DMD, the process speed can be increased by 250 to 330 % compared to manual laser deposition welding. The new AM-2.0-capable laser welding systems can be quickly and easily upgraded with this powder application nozzle to apply metallic layers fully automatically. In contrast to conventional laser deposition welding, where the wire is usually applied manually by a welder, the new process is fully automated and precise, therefore increasing productivity.

In the DMD process, metal powder from a powder nozzle is applied in a coaxial pattern on an existing surface. The process can be fully automated and can even be implemented on systems with an average output of just 300 W. It can be used on three-dimensional surfaces and therefore offers many possible applications, such as surface refinement, shape modifications or to restore damaged forming, stamping and injection molding tools to an as-new condition.

Additive Production Via SLM

Based on this experience and expertise, the company extended its field of activity to include the powder bed based SLM system OR Las Creator. This system features for instance a construction chamber with a new coating concept, which is designed to ensure an accelerated and smooth operation as well as shorter production cycles. This means that components can be produced around 30 % faster than with comparable systems available on the market. The system is operated with a 250 W fiber laser, whose beam quality and power stability ensure consistent process conditions. In this way, it achieves a particularly high resolution, leading to a higher density of the components and improved surface quality.


Additive Production with Hybrid Technology

At Formnext 2017, OR Laser already presented OR Las Creator hybrid as a logical further development of the Creator, which enables 3D printing and milling of components on one machine. It combines 3D printing with the precision of computer-controlled industrial milling processes and therefore provides the usual perfect accuracy and the resulting high-quality surfaces of the machining processes and exploits the potential of 3D printing.

The Creator hybrid exceeds the possibilities of conventional milling. In contrast to traditional methods, the OR laser allows the milling head to process structures and surfaces that are normally inaccessible, such as internal contours, undercuts or hidden cooling channels. The hybrid system offers all the outstanding 3D printing capabilities of its predecessor: 250 W laser power at a spot size of 40 μm, laser processing speeds of 3,500 mm/second, 110 mm diameter of the construction platform and a maximum component height of 100 mm.

The control of both system types is tablet-based. All important process parameters are monitored and adjusted during the printing process. Cloud manufacturing is possible from any location. To operate the 3D printer as a stand-alone system, OR Laser supplies a complete solution that consists of machine, operating software and interface development. This eliminates additional costs and ensures easy integration.

This article was first published by MaschinenMarkt.

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