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Precision manufacturing

Different technologies but several materials

Integration of 3D metal printing in a production line demonstrator

Sirris proves that additive manufacturing (AM) is ready for the production floor with its AM Integrated Factory. On 14 November, the official launch took place in the machinery building in Diepenbeek, Belgium. The pilot line that combines several technologies and represents an investment of 2.5 million euros is a first for Belgium and many other countries in the world. 

 

The AM Integrated Factory was developed within the context of the ‘Integration of 3D metal printing’ European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) project. While initially only polymers were printed, current technology allows the printing of complex components using metal, an evolution that seems to be gaining momentum during the last few years.

 

The pilot set-up combines different state-of-the-art technologies and is bringing the factory of the future to the work floor: LBM (Laser Beam Machining), high-precision five-axis milling, laser curing, surface functionalisation and operator support by a cobot.

 

The AM Integrated Factory is a pilot factory for demonstrations and research on an industrial level. The aim is to assist businesses when integrating additive manufacturing operations focusing on the production of parts in industrial production lines.

 

The pilot shows that different breakthrough technologies can now also be integrated on a single production line, which means a faster and more accurate production process and, moreover, ensures 'first time right' can be achieved. The system will be deployed to demonstrate the production of complex parts with a high added value.

Metal products with the required end quality, also possible via AM

Metal machining companies that want to retain or consolidate their competitive edge will benefit from researching today which role additive manufacturing (AM) can play in their production of tomorrow. Sirris joined the European (Cornet) project 'AM4Industry: Quality assurance and cost models to provide support when generally deploying additive manufacturing in the industry' to increase the potential of additive manufacturing, guaranteeing the required end quality of the product and within an economically profitable framework. The project was started on 1 January 2017 with research partners in Belgium, Austria and Germany.

 

A user group of companies provides support to each research partner to help with the management of the project. During the first steering group meeting of Belgian companies, ten industrial cases were put forward, which indicates that additive manufacturing and the precise finishing of printed parts is a topic of interest.

 

Different aspects will be tackled and developed within the project: all components of the chain from design to finish will be researched and synchronised to guarantee the end quality of the part. To assist companies in selecting the most appropriate machining technology, a total-cost-of-ownership model will be developed to compare traditional machining technology with production via additive manufacturing. 

Adding functions via laser texturing

Self-lubricating machine components, ice-free turbine blades, etc. Adding value to their products through surface functions, companies can increase their competitive edge. This can be achieved by adding texture to a surface. Sirris invested in a high-precision femtosecond laser to further expand its surface functionalisation options. This was a first in the Benelux.

 

On 13 June, the Sirris Precision Manufacturing department introduced its new asset to the industry: a Lasea LS5-1 femtosecond laser texturing machine: top technology made in Belgium. Since adding functions to a surface with a coating is not the only option, Sirris decided to add microtextures with a femto laser as a complementary technology at its premises. The femtosecond laser ensures that very precise textures, that is, microtextures with a spot size of 20 µm or even smaller, can be added to various types of surfaces at a low temperature using ultra short pulsating lasers. The use of a femtosecond laser provides interesting advantages to our industry such as no heat transfer onto the material to be machined, no risk of fractures or residual tensions, very precise textures, etc.

 

This machine allows targeted research to be carried out into the potential applications of surface textures. In addition, the technology will be made available to interested companies through research projects, cases, etc.