The aerospace, medical technologies and automotive sectors have very high manufacturing costs because of the complexity of the parts involved, the low volumes produced and the price of raw materials. EU-funded researchers are building a solution that almost sounds too good to be true: a fast, energy-efficient combined subtractive and additive manufacturing machine that produces metal parts for lower cost than its traditional counterparts.
© Ross Petukhov - fotolia.com
The Borealis project team is building on previous results in mechatronics and laser processing to build a machine with unprecedented throughput (up to 2 000 cm³/hour). The machine is intended to increase efficiency by 40% and material savings by 75% compared to current processes. It will also be able to produce very large parts with complex geometrical, functional or composition requirements.
The manufactured parts will need no further machining, and the Borealis team is aiming for zero defects.
Making these improvements possible involves combining an advanced 3D laser scanner and a novel laser source system that will support both additive and subtractive technologies. A flexible revolver head will also make it possible to blend powders of different materials, including micro and nano powders, to create the desired part.
For the first time, ablation technologies – which use vaporisation to finish a surface – will also be used during the fabrication process; such micro-texturing must today be carried out as a separate step.