EOS GmbH Electro Optical Systems

08/31/2018 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 08/31/2018 02:15

NextGenAM: Taking major steps into the next generation of industrial 3D printing

Augsburg/Varel, Krailling, Ulm, August 31, 2018- One year ago, Premium AEROTEC, Daimler, and EOS jointly initiated the NextGenAM project to develop the basis of a future system for series production using 3D printing technologies. Now, the first pilot plant has been put into operation at Premium AEROTEC in Varel, northern Germany - a key milestone.

Additive manufacturing (AM) is becoming an increasingly important factor in the industry, also with regard to series production. Against this background, the aerostructures supplier Premium AEROTEC, the automotive manufacturer Daimler, and EOS, the leading technology supplier in the field of industrial 3D printing, have joined forces in the NextGenAM project to fundamentally develop the next generation of additive manufacturing. Since the project officially began in May 2017, the NextGenAM team has checked the entire AM process to assess its potential for automation. Now the first pilot plant has been put into operation at Premium AEROTEC's technology center in Varel.

Goal of the project is to develop a complete production cell capable of manufacturing aluminum components for the automotive and aerospace industries. The purpose-built pilot facility currently consists of various machines for additive manufacturing, post-processing, and quality assurance. The innovation about the production chain is that the individual steps and the interaction of all additive and conventional process steps are fully automated and integrated, and manual steps have been eliminated. As a result, complex, lightweight and at the same time robust components can be manufactured and the high level of automation forms the basis for profitable production going forward.

The pilot plant in detail

Center of the pilot production chain is the EOS M 400-4 four-laser system for industrial 3D printing with metal materials. The system is used in combination with the peripheral solutions of the EOS Shared-Modules concept. The EOS M 400-4 in Varel is therefore equipped with a powder station and connected to a stand-alone setup and unpacking station. As a result, filling and emptying the system with the aluminum material, setting up the system to prepare a new build job, and unpacking the built components from the powder bed can be carried out independently of and parallel to the actual AM build process. This significantly increases productivity. The additively manufactured components are transported between the individual stations fully automated and under protective gas in a container on an automated guided vehicle.

The downstream post-processing has also been extensively automated: A robot takes the build platform with the parts from the setup station and places it in a furnace for subsequent heat treatment. The same robot then removes the platform again and takes it to a three-dimensional optical measurement systemfor quality assurance purposes. Finally, the build platform is conveyed to a saw, which separates the parts from the platform, making the components ready for further use.