Remember the IDAM project? Launched last year by 12 partners, with the goal of promoting the “Industrialization and Digitization of Additive Manufacturing (AM) for Automotive Series Processes”. The partners have been working on several solutions to address the limitations of laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) AM. Part of these limitations acknowledged by most AM users include lack of automation and the technology’s expensive costs.
As a key member of the IDAM consortium and a host to one of the two pilot lines at its Bonn-based facility, GKN PM’s pivotal role consists in translating process development concepts from the academic side to application-focused strategies on the industry side.
With an expertise in conventional powder metallurgy serial production and a deep experience in metal additive manufacturing, the company has created an industrialized, automated factory setting.
Its Bonn-based facility includes a portfolio of several AM systems such as Metal Binder Jetting & Multi Jet Fusion, technologies that are well in line with the IDAM project’s modular approach. Indeed, this approach will enable the partners to digitally connect these technologies and explore new possibilities.
In collaboration with BMW Group, GKN PM shares key insights into the qualification process and support the SMEs that are developing the pilot line modules.
Creating a digital architecture remains one of the most challenging phases
A thorough exploration of the main phases of an AM production process (pre-printing, printing, and post-printing phases) raises the need to create a digital architecture, that would cover the entire AM process chain. This digital architecture would be crucial to ensure good communication between AM process chain modules and achieving the reliability required for serial production.
For the partners, the hurdle lies in the creation of one stop-shop solution for various LPBF systems that all vary in their interfaces to the process chain. Indeed, due the diverse nature of LPBF systems, it is quite tricky to implement an interface that is both reliable and flexible.
The PM specialist is currently validating the EOS M300-4 quad-laser system which has recently been installed in its facility. To further develop the machine’s productivity, the company has identified a metal powder material named DP 600. It is adual-phase steel that can be further customized using heat treatment methods.
The gas atomized material demonstrates an elongation rate of 13% (as-built) up to 22% (with heat treatment), and a tensile strength of 950 MPA (as-built) up to 700 MPA (with heat treatment). Further potential to reduce cost per part can be achieved by using water atomized powders for future applications.
In addition to its validation on the EOS M300-4 quad-laser system, its customizable propertiesmake it an ideal candidate for AM industrialization in the automotive market.
“We are now halfway through the IDAM roadmap,” says Sebastian Blümer, Technology Manager Laser AM at GKN Powder Metallurgy. “Currently, we are in the phase of checking the concepts of the pilot line modules. We are preparing to receive the remaining modules by the beginning of 2021, which will give us about a year to test and qualify them. In other words, the digital architecture is almost finished and we are now looking to the prototype phase. We are eager to get the pilot line modules connected with our internal systems to simulate the IDAM workflow.”
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