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3D Metal Printing How Resource-Efficient Is Metal 3D Printing?

Editor: Matthias Brandstätter

In the newly opened 3D printing laboratory for metal and structural materials at the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics (Ernst-Mach-Institut EMI), researchers have examined the resource-efficiency of the manufacturing process of additively manufactured aluminium light-weight components.

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Production time was reduced by 14 % and CO2 emissions by 19 % and 28 % material savings.
Production time was reduced by 14 % and CO2 emissions by 19 % and 28 % material savings.
(Source: Pixabay / CC0 )

At the Fraunhofer Institut, Selective Laser Melting (SLM) is used to produce metal structures with dimensions of up to 40 cm. Fraunhofer researchers used the example of a practical component to investigate how resource-efficient the manufacturing process actually is and whether material and operating costs can be minimized compared to conventional industrial processes. A wheel carrier, such as those used in lightweight vehicles, was used as a component for the test. The researchers focused on the characteristic values of power and material requirements, production time and CO2 emissions, which occur during a small series production of twelve wheel carriers.

Combination of Additive Manufacturing and Intelligent Lightweight Design

After the researchers had simulated, analyzed and determined a design concept using the numerical finite element method (FEM) and determined the appropriate geometric shape, they constructed the wheel carrier in an optimized lightweight design. The result was a wheel carrier that is designed for the defined load scenarios and offers maximum performance. With the help of the numerically optimized version of the wheel carrier, the energy required for the additive process could be reduced by 15 % compared to the conventional design methods. Conventional design required 12 kWh of electricity, numerically optimized design required only 10 kWh — the measured value refers to a single component of the series produced. Production time was reduced by 14 % and CO2 emissions by 19 %. With 28 %, material savings were even more significant.

In future, the scientists want to investigate to what extent other heights, series numbers and materials such as titanium will influence the resource efficiency of the manufacturing process.

Here you can find more information about different methods of 3D metal printing.

This article was first published by konstruktionspraxis.

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