Metal 3D Printing complex geometries

Jun 24, 2024 | Knowledge Base

A modular automation cell was developed in a collaborative project between Meltio, Kuka and HS Automation. This cooperation has achieved a more efficient and cost-effective process, setting new standards in the laser deposition process.

Moving from 3-axes to 5-axis printing in Additive Manufacturing

 

The demands for material reduction and energy efficiency drive continuous advancements in manufacturing. Once a metal 3D printing system is developed, the next step is clear: we need more than just 3-axis capabilities.

To overcome the design limitations of 3-axis systems, transitioning to 5-axis printing is essential. Meltio addresses this by integrating the Meltio Engine and Print Head with a robotic arm, enabling 5-axis printing.

This integration allows for greater flexibility and precision in metal 3D printing, facilitating the creation of complex geometries and intricate structures previously unattainable. Meltio’s innovation enhances manufacturing efficiency and expands the possibilities for new applications and advancements across various industries.

By doing so, Meltio gives the capability to perform non-planar extrusion, combined with the ability to rotate both the robot and the positioner, enabling the creation of complex or large-scale geometries. Thus it maximizes the robot’s full reach, allowing it to produce intricate designs that would otherwise be challenging.

The compact multi-laser print head, developed by Meltio, features six lasers delivering a combined power of 1.2 kW and processes metal raw material in wire form. It precisely deposits the melted wire layer by layer, minimizing material waste and manufacturing costs.

The W-LMD technology produces parts with exceptional microstructure and a density of 99.998%, surpassing the properties of castings and rivaling those of forgings.

Meltio’s laser wire metal 3D printing innovations lower costs and optimize manufacturing workflows, which is of paramount importance for every single company, especially for SMEs and HS Automation can perfectly relate. For over 20 years, they’ve been helping companies to increase performance and become more sustainable. They are also one of trusted Meltio’s partners, of which there are over 50 around the world.

Years before this collaboration, another partnership was inevitable. The increasing demand for printing large and complex geometries focused attention on robot industry leaders KUKA. Large-scale metal 3D printing became a reality thanks to the robot arm’s extensive reach and mobility, combined with a synchronized turn-tilt table.

meltio-engine-robot-printing

Advanced manufacturing taken to the limit: Metal 3D Printing in a Robot

 

Thanks to the Meltio Engine, any robot arm can be transformed into a manufacturing system with no inherent size constraints. The integration of the Meltio Engine into a KUKA robot arm creates the perfect platform for large and complex 3D printing, repair, cladding and feature addition.

The use of wire as a feedstock ensures the safest, cleanest, and easiest operation while significantly reducing material consumption. Additionally, our systems allow the use of dual materials, allowing you to combine two different materials in applications such as hard-facing or corrosion protection. And if two were not enough, the Meltio M600 pushes the multi-material capability to 4 materials.

Meltio’s multi-laser metal deposition process ensures that the wire enters the melt pool coaxially, effectively using 100% of the material. In contrast, powder-based Directed Energy Deposition (DED) processes result in 30-50% of material waste, which is difficult and costly to recycle. Also, our dual material system can print dual wire for hard-facing or anti-corrosion applications.

This fact allows us to produce parts with exceptional mechanical properties, thanks to the use of materials developed by Meltio and others compatible with our technology, such as Stainless steel, Titanium, Inconel, Copper and Aluminum. These last two are the latest developments achieved by Meltio. 

TIP: Know more about compatible and Meltio materials by downloading the Meltio Materials Printable List.

To facilitate the manufacturing process even further, it comes with Meltio Space, a state-of-the-art toolpath slicing software with an easy-to-use interface for planar, non-planar, and variable extrusion toolpaths. Meltio Space offers an unparalleled experience with more than 10 Slicing Strategies for industrial use and an automated process parametrization, meaning that the users only need to define the Geometry (solid or hollow), Quality (utility or fully Dense), and Material. Critical parameters are already calculated, such as Deposition Height and Widths, Material Selection (including dual wire compatibility), Overlaps, Infill Type, Density, and Angles, as well as Seam and Speeds (covering Perimeters, infill, and travel speeds).

This comprehensive approach extends to Meltio Engine, where Laser Power, Feeder Speed, and Argon Flow are meticulously defined to ensure optimal performance. And that is what makes it pretty remarkable because this automation not only enhances productivity but also guarantees consistent, high-quality outcomes.

Metal additive manufacturing in a modular automation cell

In collaboration with Meltio and KUKA, HS Automation has developed an advanced laser cell for metal additive manufacturing. This system integrates a KUKA robot with the Meltio Engine and Meltio Head. The Meltio Deposition Head, equipped with six lasers, melts the wire fed onto the carrier material or the workpiece, ensuring high accuracy. The resulting components typically require little to no finishing.

Because of its cooperation, the system achieves minimal material waste and low manufacturing costs with almost unlimited design possibilities. The technology creates tools, parts and free-forms with the material properties of stainless steel, titanium, inconel and structural steel.

Advantages of robotic metal 3D printing

Geometry freedom

With Meltio’s 3D printing technology, it is possible to create extremely complex parts or double-panel objects with infinite degrees of freedom. This overcomes traditional manufacturing limitations, making it possible to produce intricate geometries that were previously impossible or too costly to realize.

High customization and flexibility

It allows rapid prototyping and production of custom parts according to specific requirements.

Large-scale capability

Meltio’s system has no inherent restrictions on part scale. The only limitation is the size of the motion system, which allows for the production of large-scale components in a single build. This is ideal for industries such as aerospace, automotive and construction, where large parts with high precision are required.

Safe and reliable

Using wire as the metal feedstock is the safest, cleanest, and easiest option. It significantly reduces contamination and handling issues common in powder-based systems, leading to a safer working environment and a more reliable printing process.

Efficient use of materials

Meltio’s technology is designed to maximize material use efficiency. The wire-based feeding system ensures optimal material use, generating minimal waste during the printing process and thus reducing costs. The need for supporting structures or metal powder is avoided.

Enhanced mechanical properties

Our system produces parts with superior mechanical properties and optimal microstructure. This results in components that are not only complex in design but also robust and durable, meeting the stringent demands of industrial applications.

Opportunities for robotic metal 3D printing

One of the main opportunities is the capability of solving spare parts problems. That means parts that are no longer available can be produced. This is key in many industries. Apart from that, manufacturing processes are greatly enhanced.

Up to 10x Lower Cost

Wire feedstock is a cost-effective welding commodity that reduces both material consumption and finishing time

Up to 4x Productivity

Thanks to its higher material efficiency, the process is faster whilst requiring lower laser power

Savings up to 98% of the material

By allowing the advantage of double material

3x Faster

Production, testing, and optimization of flow-optimized components

Industries taking advantage of robotic metal 3D printing

This amount of outstanding features takes the manufacturing capabilities of any industry to a whole new dimension.

Industries like automotive, automation, aerospace, heavy machinery or food are already benefiting from the exceptional material properties that Meltio’s metal 3D printing system provides.

The new development of printing copper will also bring the possibility of making futuristic projects possible, like e-mobility.

And the list goes on: Medical technology – artificial knee joints made of titanium, toolmaking, in special systems engineering and prototype production, and energy industries – wind turbines.

Conclusion

Our approach involves advanced products and innovative software that not only generate precise toolpaths but also facilitate the repair of existing products. This minimizes reliance on conventional manufacturing techniques and eliminates the need to completely remanufacture parts when only a specific area requires rebuilding.

Our innovative 3D printing process allows users to save material and produce complex parts cost-effectively. Also, working in collaboration with partners and industry leaders makes it easier for Meltio to provide the metal industry with all the necessary equipment for their industrial needs.

We are redefining the possibilities for manufacturers by revolutionizing deposition processes and moving beyond traditional methods.

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