The LENS 450 uses a deposition system with a high-power laser to build up structures one layer at a time directly from powdered metals.

The process is housed in a chamber which is purged with argon, so that the oxygen level stays below 10 parts per million to ensure there is no impurity pick-up during deposition. The metal powder is fed to the process by Optomec's powder-feed system, which is able to flow small quantities of powder very precisely. When complete, the part is removed and can be heat-treated, hot isostatic pressed, machined, or finished in another manner.

The final components have mechanical properties that are equivalent or superior to forged materials, acccording to Optomec.

The LENS 450 3D printer can process stainless steel, cobalt chrome, titanium and superalloys, making it suitable for rapid prototyping and repair of small metal components. The system provides a 100mm3 (64 cubic inch) work envelope within a class 1 laser enclosure. Additional features include a 400W High brightness solid-state fibre laser, powder feeder, motion control system, and proprietary process control software.

The first delivery of the LENS 450 3D printer will be to the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Material Science at the University of Pittsburgh, USA, where it will be used in their new Advanced Manufacturing education programme. "The LENS 450 system is an excellent tool to conduct basic and applied research, and for training students on industry proven technology for metal additive manufacturing,” said Professor C Isaac Garcia.

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