Fraunhofer Institute has reportedly completed a project covering the hybrid production of large prototype components using laser metal deposition (LMD).

According to the organization, this could help companies shorten the time between developing an idea for a new product and launching it on the market. To do this, some aspects of the process need to be made available at an early stage of the product development process, including product, process and material data for additive manufacturing (AM) processes, materials, and new kinds of production equipment, Fraunhofer said.

Current methods of producing lightweight components (e.g. for aircraft) can involve ablating up to 90% of the raw material, which must then be recycled. Hybrid manufacturing with LMD can avoid this, because it can add geometric elements to three-dimensional parts of virtually unlimited size using an automated process. However, commercially available LMD machines are expensive and can often only handle parts up to a certain size.

The aim of the ProLMD project is to develop a more economical process chain including systems technology and LMD processes using industrial robots. Plans are also to develop a flexible shielding gas system which will only deploy shielding gas where it is actually required. The system will also include a new laser machining head that can work with both wire and powder as the filler material, plus a suitable CAM system for hybrid manufacturing. Fraunhofer says that it is also conducting research into LMD processes for a range of materials in both wire and powder form.

This story uses material from Fraunhofer, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.