Traditional machines have been normally focused on only a single type of these processes but there is a new generation of machines that combines the features of individual manufacturing processes into a single platform. Developing a new machine concept and design into a single set-up processing and process control becomes an important need of the industry.
Additive Manufacturing (AM) has a great potential for having a major impact on the production of components or parts in the future.
The biggest impact of AM would come from using it to produce high strength and high integrity metals for application to large (several metres) engineering structures.
It is envisaged that if this could be achieved cost effectively on a large scale, thus AM would have the potential to revolutionise major engineering sectors such as energy (including renewables), aerospace and construction.
LASIMM was a highly ambitious project, which culminated in one of the world’s largest metal 3D printer, capable of producing quality assured finished components directly from a CAD drawing. The key process technology of Wire + Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) combined with other advanced manufacturing processes and robotics enabled and made this a reality.
The machine features AM and machining capabilities. Extended capabilities, such as, cold-work, metrology and inspection were assessed, to be added into the machine. This possibility provides the machine with a unique and innovative solution, so far unseen on those hybrid platforms that are already available on the market, to meet costumers’ requirements. Moreover, it is expected that the integration of theses extra capabilities to the machine, will allow the production of fully assured parts with superior mechanical properties while, in parallel, leading to major cost and production time savings.
The materials identified and used in the scope of the project were aluminium and steel, as well as titanium in terms of extended system capability assessment.
The modular approach of the machine’ system architecture enables flexible reconfiguration of the machine thus having potential for a high number of machine concepts. Regardless, no other setup operations will be required apart from those necessary to load and unload the machine at the beginning and at the end of the manufacturing/repair process.
Advances brought by LASIMM:
After LASIMM verification and acceptance, we estimate a 6 to 12 months’ industrialization period, after which the complete hybrid cell will be ready for commercialization. To prepare this ramp-up to the market, the project will first deliver:
- A modular self-contained platform with TRL 6, based on robotic manipulation for the additive and subtractive, capable of building complex, parts up to 6m in length and hundreds of kilograms in weight, in aluminium and steel, with excellent mechanical properties even better than the equivalent forged alloys. Modular means that it could be easily scaled or reconfigured to match the precise requirement of the end users, for example: to have a higher deposition rate it is possible to have a system with two, three or even more robots carrying out the additive part of the process;
- A software package capable of handling the different phases of the production of a component all the way from CAD file to fully finished part;
- A software package that enables parallel manufacturing, providing large gains in productivity and reduction in cost compared to the traditional serial processing route;
- A control system capable of governing each hardware subassembly in a seamless, symbiotic way operating the equipment as one individual smart machine operating on a single setup fully integrating and automatizing all manufacturing steps and processes;
- An integrated modular machine, tailored to the needs and requirements of the end users, large companies and SMEs alike;
- Identification of gaps in existing AM/SM standards and create recommendations documents to be used in the development of new standards.