Concept Laser

Concept Laser (10)

3D metal printing enables incredible applications because it truly allows freedom of design. For the first time ever, a prosthetic titanium beak has been manufactured using 3D metal printing and implanted on Gigi, a blue macaw (a genus of the parrot family), in Brazil. This unusual prosthetic saved Gigi's very life, as macaws are unable to eat solid foods without a beak.

The illegal trade of wild birds is a sad story of greed, and it doesn't just happen in Brazil. The victims are magnificent creatures whose very beauty can end up being their downfall. During Gigi's captivity at the hands of illegal bird traders, poor housing conditions caused severe malformation of the bird's beak. Ultimately, Gigi was freed by the Brazilian police, but the magnificent bright blue and yellow feathered macaw could no longer be fed without a beak. A team of veterinarians, together with 3D printing experts from the Renato Archer Technology and Information Center (CTI) in Campinas, Brazil, developed an implant solution for the bird. The successful operation took place at the Animal Care Center in Ipiranga near Sao Paulo.

The artificial beak was created thanks to the cooperation of three specialists. The team, dubbed the "Avengers," was comprised of veterinarian Roberto Fecchio, 3D designer and facial-reconstruction specialist Cicero Moraes and veterinary dentist Paul Miamoto. The "Avengers" are pioneers in the use of 3D printing technology for saving the life of wild animals, having previously made a new shell for Freddy the turtle and a beak for an injured toucan. These prosthetics were made of plastic. In the case of Gigi, Plastic was not suitable. Macaws use their beaks to open seeds and break other hard shells, meaning that their beaks need to be extremely long-lasting and strong. This being the case, the team decided on titanium, known to be extremely durable. Titanium presented itself as the perfect solution, as it is biocompatible, lightweight and corrosion-resistant. Many prosthetics for people are produced using titanium today, so why not try using the material to help a wild bird?

Paul Miamoto began by taking a series of photographs of the malformed beak. From these, Cicero Moraes created a digital 3D model for the perfectly fitting prosthetic. The beak was then laser melted at the Renato Archer Technology and Information Center (CTI). Gigi's artificial beak was created using a Mlab cusing R from Concept Laser, with which especially delicate parts with high surface quality can be manufactured. The smallest system model from Lichtenfels proved to be the right choice for saving Gigi's life. The operation then took place at the Animal Care Center in Sao Paulo. Veterinarians Roberto Fecchio, Sergio Camargo, Rodrigo Rabello and Methus Rabello participated. The 3D-printed prosthetic was secured in place with bone cement and orthopedic screws. Just 48 hours after the operation, Gigi was able to try out the beak. She made a fantastic recovery at the Center for Research and Screening of Wild Animals (CEPTAS) at Unimonte University. Gigi is currently awaiting placement at a zoo, where visitors can marvel at the bird's one-of-a-kind beak secured in place with colorful rhinestone-styled screws.

All's well that ends well. Examples like Gigi show that 3D-printed medical technology isn't just capable of providing greater quality of life to people. The unlimited geometric freedom of the process enables the manufacture of perfectly fitting implants ideally suitable for each respective application. Ultimately, it was able to help a magnificent wild bird overcome injuries and deformities, so there is good news in our often uncertain and sometimes unsettling world.

Concept Laser presented a new machine and plant architecture which promises a new level of Additive Manufacturing in terms of quality, flexibility and increase in performance. The modular integration of machine technology into the manufacturing environment is achieved with a new approach in the design of process components. Ultimately, this makes faster and more economic industrial production solutions available. Concept Laser has announced a market launch by as early as the end of 2016.

The previous solutions for machine and plant technology in the market all relied on ideas such as “more laser sources,” “more laser power,” “faster build rates” or “expansion of the build envelope sizes.” The machine technology represented a “standalone” solution without any consistent integration into the manufacturing environment. Build job preparation and build job process proceeded sequentially. Concept Laser is now attempting, with a new machine architecture, to expand the usually quantitative sections with new, qualitative aspects. “In essence,” says Dr. Florian Bechmann, Head of R&D at Concept Laser, “it is about splitting up build job preparation/build job follow-up processing and Additive Manufacturing in any number of combinable modules. With comparatively large build envelopes, build jobs can be carried out with a time delay. The intention is that this should drastically reduce the “downtimes” of previous stand-alone machines. There is plenty of potential here for improving the level of added value in the production chain. In contrast to purely quantitative approaches of previous machine concepts, we see here a fundamentally new approach for advancing industrial series production one step further.”

At present, regional printing centers are being created as service providers all around the globe. This development is characterized by the transition from “prototyping” to a desire for flexible series production at an industrial level. The AM users experience the pressure of traditional manufacturing: demand for space, expansion of the machinery, increasing operating tasks and in particular times. In the new concept from Concept Laser, interesting solutions are offered in this regard: Production is “decoupled in machine terms” from the preparation processes. The time window for AM production is increased to a “24/7 level,” meaning that there is higher availability of all components. An automated flow of materials palpably reduces the workload for the operators. Interfaces integrate the laser melting machine into traditional CNC machine technology, as is important for hybrid parts, for example, but also into downstream processes (post-processing / finishing).

The new plant architecture is characterized essentially by decoupling of “pre-production,” “production” and “post-processing.” This includes among other things flexible machine loading and physical separation of the setting-up and disarming processes. The objective here was to coordinate the process components in a more targeted way with interfaces and increase the flexibility of the process design to create an integrated approach. This becomes possible thanks to a consistent modular structure of “handling stations” and “build and process units” which, in terms of combination and interlinking, promises considerably greater flexibility and availabilities. It will also be possible to handle the present diversity of materials better, and ultimately more economically, through a targeted combination of these modules. For example, in future the machine user will be able to use the modules to very precisely “customize” the production assignment in terms of the part geometry or material. All in all, the level of efficiency and availability of the production system will be markedly increased, along with a significant reduction in the amount of space required. Simulated production scenarios have in fact shown that this space can be reduced by up to 85% compared to the possibilities that exist at present. In addition, the laser power per m2 is increased seven-fold. Dr. Florian Bechmann says: “The build rates have increased enormously thanks to the multilaser technology. The build envelope sizes have also experienced considerable growth. We now want to use an integrated machine concept to highlight the possible ways that the approaches of “Industry 4.0” can change Additive Manufacturing as the manufacturing strategy of the future. There is plenty of potential here to increase industrial added value and enhance suitability for series production.”

The process station shown has a build envelope of 400 x 400 x >400 mm³, laser sources, process gas management and filter technology are integrated in the module, and the layer thicknesses are within the usual range. In addition, the machine solution has a variable focus diameter and will be available optionally with 1, 2 or 4 laser optics with a laser power ranging from 400-1,000 W. An available redundancy of the lasers will ensure that, if one laser fails, the remaining three lasers will still cover the entire build plate – the build job can still be completed. Dr. Florian Bechmann says: “More and more laser sources only increase the expected speeds to a limited extent. But ultimately they also increase the level of complexity and dependencies, which can result in vulnerability, and thus turn the desired positive effect into a negative.”

The new handling station has an integrated sieving station and powder management. There is now no longer any need for containers to be used for transportation between the machine and sieving station. Unpacking, preparations for the next build job and sieving therefore take place in a self-contained system without the operator coming into contact with the powder. But what also makes a modular handling station attractive is the specific configurations: A handling station can be linked to two process stations to create a “manufacturing cell.” The factory building kit also enables several handling stations to be joined together to create a material preparation facility and be physically separated from the process stations.

The new factory building kit boasts three types of modules: process module, dose module and “overflow” module, which are to be offered in different heights. What is remarkable is the direct link between these modules without the use of any pipes or tubes and their identification via RFID interfaces. Accordingly, the result is a reliable flow of materials with high material throughputs along with great flexibility when there is a need to supply different types of materials for the build process and handle them. “In the future,” says Dr. Florian Bechmann, “we think that AM factories will be largely automated. The transport of material or entire modules can be envisaged as being done by driverless transport systems. This could then be the next step in the development. Additive Manufacturing can be automated to the maximum extent.”

The new machine concept has a new type of 2-axis coating system which enables the return of the coater to be performed in parallel with exposure. This results in a considerable time saving during the coating process.
The coater blades, optionally made of rubber, steel or carbon, can be changed automatically during the build job. This results in several advantages according to Dr. Florian Bechmann: “An automated tool changing system, as is the case with CNC machine technology, promises a high level of flexibility, time advantages when setting up the machine, and reduces the level of manual intervention by the operator. We deliberately talk here about ‘robust production’.”

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Netherlands based Blok Group is investing in two new laser melting systems from Concept Laser. They include an X line 2000R® system, which combines the largest metal 3d printer build envelope currently available with the latest multi-laser technology for reactive materials. A new M2 cusing system also supplements their manufacturing capacity for medium-sized metal parts.

The new X line 2000R® at Blok will be the first system of this scale in the Netherlands. With a build envelope of 800x400x500 mm3, the X line 2000R® currently offers the largest build envelope for laser melting metals. Its heart, the dual laser system in the X line 2000R®, is based on two 1,000 watt lasers. The useful build volume also increased nearly 27% from 126 l to 160 l compared with the X line 1000R. In addition, the X line 2000R® features a new sieving station that uses a quiet vibrating sieve instead of the tumbler sieve. The concept is incredibly compact, as the oversized particle container is now smaller, and has been integrated into the sieving station. The new sieving unit reduces the unit's footprint – and its fully enclosed design keeps the surrounding area clean and tidy. The dose unit has also been redesigned so the dose chamber is filled completely and fully automatically within one cycle.

Erik Blok, CEO of the Blok Group: "Speed and volume are important requirements for high-quality, economical production. The benefits offered by the X line 2000R® can also be seen clearly when compared with competing systems: It offers almost three to four times the build volume. Overall, the 2nd build module gives us high availability, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for additive manufacturing."

A new M2 cusing system by Concept Laser completes the range at Blok Group in the medium-sized machine segment. It has been redesigned compared with the previous model. The laser and the filter are also fully integrated into the system. The surface area of the filter has also been increased fivefold. Moreover the M2 cusing is fitted as standard with a water-submersible filter in order to guarantee safety when changing the filter. This system will be used in future to build medium-sized 3D geometries, positioning Blok as a comprehensive service provider for laser melting metals in the Netherlands.

Installation of the new capacity will start in August 2015 with the M2 cusing, followed by the X line 2000R® in Q1 of 2016.

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Concept Laser announced the installation of the M2 cusing Multilaser metal additive manufacturing system at Faustson Tool of Arvada, Colorado. The high precision, machine shop specializes in the aerospace, aeronautics, defense, energy, medical and semiconductor industries.

“From our inception, Faustson Tool has committed to being a pioneer in the industry by utilizing new leap-frog technology and pushing the bounds of a traditional machine shop,” said Alicia Svaldi, President, Faustson Tool. “While conducting our in-depth research on additive manufacturing processes available on the market, the LaserCUSING® technology from Concept Laser was the best fit.”

“Staying at the forefront of technology is critical, not only to stay competitive, but to provide our customers with the best manufacturing solutions available on the market. Concept Laser’s M2 cusing Multilaser system with 2 x 400 W lasers provides another depth to our manufacturing services,” said Heidi Hostetter, Vice President, Faustson Tool.

“There is a tremendous emphasis on UAV and defense in Colorado,” continued Hostetter. “As new technologies, such as metal additive manufacturing came on to the market, our customers began requesting services that could only be produced on an additive manufacturing system. The technology we found from Concept Laser was stronger then other metal additive manufacturing technology available, offered flexible parameters, and fit into our current process seamlessly. The multilaser technology offers throughput similar to higher-powered systems (e.g. 1kW), while maintaining the high-precision and superior finish available with lower power settings.”

Concept Laser introduced the redesign of the M2 cusing with multilaser option at the end of 2014. With a new look and fully integrated structure, the M2 is equipped with a new filter design and increased surface area of 20 square meters. The M2 cusing Multilaser is available with 2 x 200 W lasers, or alternatively with 2 x 400 W lasers, and makes use of Concept Laser’s improved segmented exposure strategy for laser melting of metals. The dual-laser configuration increases the machine’s throughput by up to 1.8 times over that of its single-laser counterpart. The increase is dependent on the geometry of the corresponding component. These solutions with multilaser technology are interesting to digital service centers with a tendency to industrial mass production.

“Concept Laser is very excited about our partnership with Faustson Tool,” said Zach Murphree, PhD, Regional Manager, Technical Sales Engineer, Concept Laser. “Companies like Faustson Tool represent the next step in the maturation of the additive metals industry, where the technology is gaining acceptance within production facilities, not just OEMs. The M2 cusing Multilaser system is the result of fifteen years of continued metal additive development at Concept Laser and is accelerating the acceptance within the industry, and Faustson is on the leading edge of this wave.”

To begin, Faustson will build with Concept Laser’s recently introduced CL 92PH (also known as 17-4 PH Stainless Steel) and Nickel Alloy 718.

Faustson Tool operates a 16,000-square-foot facility with more than 20 highly skilled employees, and is owned and operated by Alicia Svaldi, President, and Heidi Hostetter, Vice President. Faustson Tool remains in the forefront of the manufacturing industry, continuing a tradition of pioneering the newest technology and pushing its limits. Faustson Tool takes on the most challenging applications only a few U.S. companies can handle, using state-of-the-art precision machining to do things no one else in the industry thinks can be done. Faustson’s reputation for innovation and excellence has earned the company prestigious clientele: Faustson Tool manufactured a key component in NASA’s Kepler space telescope, and has worked with Ball Aerospace to produce parts for the U.S. F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter jet.

Photo Left: Ralph Sassenhausen, Technial lead for 3D printing
Photo Right: Mike Muessel, Manufacturing Manager

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Concept Laser is comprehensively upgrading its models in order to improve performance with the new M2 cusing featuring a modern machine design and numerous innovations including multilaser technology.

Concept Laser has in particular improved the process including innovations in the segmented exposure strategy and on a ground-breaking quality assurance module QMmeltpool 3D. Apart from this, two new certified materials are also available.

The new M2 cusing features a new, modern appearance with a fully integrated structure and no longer any external components for the laser and filter system. This self-contained solution provides benefits for the user in terms of the accessibility of the system components as well as greatly reduced space requirements.

The new M2 cusing is equipped with a new filter design which has increased the surface area of the filter from 4 to 20 square meters. The new filter module has been designed with fixed tubing as well as being fully integrated into the system. The frequency with which the filter has to be replaced can be reduced to such an extent that the overall throughput of the system is increased. This enhancement is important when using the multilaser technology which increases formation of smoke particles.

"Significantly faster build rates demand safer filter replacement concepts. Every filter change must be quick and easy. We have incorporated the new enhanced filter technology with safety as our primary consideration", explains Dr. Florian Bechmann. For instance, the M2 cusing is fitted as standard with a water-submersible filter in order to guarantee safety when changing the filter.

"Our product range is now enhanced with multilaser technology and it directly affects the exposure time. Our experience has shown that build rates can be increased by up to 80%. That's a very pleasing result", notes Dr. Florian Bechmann, Head of Development at Concept Laser.

The multilaser technology is initially being incorporated into the medium size segment. For instance, a multilaser version of the new M2 cusing – called the M2 cusing Multilaser – is available right now. It's available with 2 x 200 watt lasers, or alternatively with 2 x 400 watt lasers.

What's more, Concept Laser has also signalled the arrival of multilaser technology in their largest machine, the X line 1000R. In addition to the X line 1000R which is already well established in the market, in the near future the X line 2000R will also be available, and will be fitted with 2 x 1000 watt lasers. The aim is to drive ever faster construction speeds which are required by users in the aerospace and automotive industries.

Concept Laser has likewise raised its game in relation to its exposure strategy. The key term is segmented exposure. It is common that higher laser power produces a rougher surface finish. "Our new systems technology implements the hull-core principle, which enables density and surface quality to be controlled independently”, says Dr. Florian Bechmann. This means that segmented exposure has an influence on the outer parts of the component – including overhangs and high-density areas of components – in a targeted manner. "An optimised exposure strategy improves both the level of quality and build speeds." The end result is that a component's performance characteristics can be significantly improved through the use of segmented exposure strategy.

Concept Laser has demonstrated key enhancements in real-time process monitoring for quality assurance purposes. "Inline process monitoring" is one of Concept Laser's strategic technology fields, and one which we are now expanding with the QMmeltpool 3D", says Dr. Florian Bechmann: "If we can dynamically micro-analyse the construction process, the level of quality increases. Important key industries with their sophisticated applications have enabled us to develop this important innovative step", Dr. Bechmann continues. In a comparable manner to computed tomography (CT), the new QMmeltpool 3D makes it possible to generate 3D data sets that corelate directly to the component and/or it´s structure. According to Concept Laser, this allows local effects that arise during the construction of the component to be clearly identified and analysed. The practical added value of this innovation is not just that it is an original way of providing real time quality assurance, but also that production builds can be optimised through iterative variation of the parameters. Support structures can be adapted, and above all, the construction of the component can be structured in a more efficient and production-friendly manner. And not least, real time monitoring opens new opportunities in the materials research field.

Concept Laser's development center has certified two new materials. For high-temperature applications, Inconel 625 is mainly intended for use in turbine construction where components are exposed to high thermal stress of up to 1000°C. The second material is  stainless steel, 17-4 PH which can be hardened and consequently made highly resistant to abrasion, wear and corrosion. The certification of 17-4 PH stainless steel applies to the Mlab cusing R, M1cusing, and the M2 cusing series.

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Tuesday, 18 November 2014 15:59

Concept Laser Establishes USA Subsidiary in Texas

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Concept Laser, a pioneer in the field of laser melting with metals, announced the establishment of its new USA subsidiary located in Dallas, Texas.  Ongoing developments and demand for LaserCUSING systems in the USA over the last 2 to 3 years have led to the strategic placement of its new office.  To manage the new operation and provide a strong partnership with headquarters in Germany, John Murray was named CEO of the newly formed Concept Laser Inc.

"As our global customer base continues to grow, our strategy of expanding the geographic development of our company is of great benefit to our customers based in the USA and Canada,” said Frank Herzog, President and CEO, Concept Laser GmbH. “As demand for LaserCUSING systems expand across the globe, we are excited to see the expansion of our team.  This has been a highly anticipated moment for Concept Laser, as well as the Hofmann Innovation Group.  Our long-term strategy and vision for the company are coming to fruition.  We are equally thrilled to announce John Murray as the CEO for Concept Laser Inc.  John brings a tremendous wealth of additive manufacturing knowledge and customer-centric traits that we admire and know will continue to provide strong support and innovative solutions to our customers.  Establishing an office in the USA is just the first step as part of our long-term vision for Concept Laser.”

US markets are developing dynamically with regard to additive manufacturing.  The primary drivers continue to come from the aerospace industry.  The US aerospace sector systematically “calibrates” its manufacturing strategies toward additive approaches like no other country in the world.  Other important segments of the US industry, such as automotive, medical technology and advanced tooling are now in the process of adapting the new possibilities created by additive manufacturing.

“Concept Laser GmbH has built a strong alliance with their customers in the USA and Canada within the aerospace and medical industries and continue to be dedicated to providing the most innovative, structurally sound, additive manufacturing technology available on the market for metals,” said John Murray, CEO, Concept Laser Inc.  “It is a great honor to continue the efforts and build a strong team in the USA. With Concept Laser’s 100% focus on metals, I am extremely impressed with the company’s ability to focus on long-term technical strategies that benefit our customers and push the boundaries of the technology.

“With almost  50 LaserCUSING systems already installed in the USA, the Dallas office will manage ongoing consulting, support, training, application development and sales,” continued Murray.  “We are committed to further developing our support to our customers by continuing to build our team with talented technicians and applications experts in specific fields.  Since Concept Laser is driven by technology, not ‘capital,’ we reinvest our revenue in fields of the future and focus our product development and R&D on solutions that will continue to revolutionize the way we manufacture products.”

“We expect the US-based business to continue to grow,” continued Herzog.  “As John will focus on USA and Canada, we will continue to build our European markets and focus on engineering development and manufacturing.  Additionally, we will continue to strengthen our regional activities in China, and the Ningbo office, to ensure shorter pathways to the customer in all three important industrial regions of the triad. With our headquarters serving the European market, our new office in the USA, and an established branch office in China, we are now active in three significant regions around the world.”

The new office is located at:

Concept Laser Inc.
1000 Texan Trail, Suite 150
Grapevine, Texas, 76051 USA

John Murray joined Concept Laser GmbH in 2013 to develop and expand Concept Laser’s world-class additive metals platforms (3D Printing) in North American and Canada.  Prior to joining Concept Laser, Murray was Vice President, Client Services for Solidiform Inc., a leading-edge supplier of investment and sand castings for the aerospace industry.  In addition, Murray held the positions of Global Account Manager for Aerospace and Defense with Dassault Systemes SolidWorks Corp; Vice President, Sales for Idealab (Desktop Factory); and Senior Director, Global Business Development for Motorsports and Aerospace with 3D Systems.

Concept Laser is a member of the Hofmann Innovation Group.  The Group further consists of Siegfried Hofmann GmbH, Robert Hofmann GmbH and other subsidiaries worldwide.  Concept Laser is the pioneer in the field of generative metal laser fusing technology since its founding in 2000.  The LaserCUSING process allows the additive manufacturing of direct components, tool inserts, prototypes and low-volume product run parts for the jewelry, medical, dental, automotive, and aerospace industries.  LaserCUSING systems from Concept Laser process powder materials made from stainless steel, hot work tool steels, cobalt-chromium alloy, nickel-base alloy and reactive powder materials such as aluminum and titanium, as well as precious metals such as gold and silver alloys.

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Concept Laser, a pioneer in the field of laser melting with metals, held a “topping out” ceremony this past June at their headquarters in Lichtenfels, Germany. The ceremony was a milestone in the expansion of the Concept Laser production facility to meet the growing demand in the market for its advanced generative laser melting technology, LaserCUSING. The new production facility is 3,500 m2 (approximately 37,000+ sq. ft) and allows Concept Laser to increase its machine output by a factor of 2.5 compared to the previous year.

“We have experienced highly dynamic growth in the USA,” said Frank Herzog, CEO, Concept Laser. “The primary reason for this growth is the increasing demand from the aerospace industry which relies heavily on additive production technology, as a rapid method for building prototypes and production metal parts. As a result of the increased in demand for machines, we are expanding our production facility capacity.

“The new facility provides additional benefits to our customers. The design of our new facility allows for guaranteed secrecy for the increasingly sensitive projects, thus ensuring a high level of confidentiality to our customers.”

Representatives of the laser melting system manufacturer stated that they are expecting a continuation of the massive growth in 3D printing (additive manufacturing) applications with metals. This will be driven primarily by the aerospace, automotive and medical and dental industries, with regional hotspots in the USA, Europe and parts of Asia. Frank Herzog, CEO of Concept Laser, reported highly dynamic growth in the USA at the present time. The reason for this is the aerospace industry, which relies heavily on generative production technology (additive manufacturing) as a fast method of building prototypes and test beds while optimizing the time and costs of manufacturing amorphous components. The reason for the growth is the aerospace industry, which relies heavily on generative (or additive/3d printing) production technology, as a fast method of building prototypes and parts.

The Hofmann Innovation Group, of which the independent company Concept Laser is a member, is also a specialist in the fields of toolmaking and rapid and industrial prototyping. However, the group also boasts many years of experience in machine and plant engineering. The Hofmann Innovation Group has previously built machines for Concept Laser, so it was a logical step to take further advantage of the existing experience and synergy within the group, and a win-win situation for everyone involved. The new production facility was built by the Hofmann Innovation Group, will also be responsible for the future production of Concept Laser systems. Concept Laser will lease the space in the 3,500 m² production facility and be responsible for the commissioning and quality assurance of its own machines. Speaking at the topping out ceremony, Frank Herzog stressed the importance of the collaboration. "Concept Laser's new production capacity is a long-term investment that has the active support of the Hofmann Innovation Group. In the future, the financially solid structure of the Group and its numerous synergies will help us stay on the right track," concluded Herzog.

In addition to expanding its production facility, Concept Laser continues to strengthen its workforce to meet the growing demands for its LaserCUSING technology. Since 2012, Concept Laser has strengthened its workforce in Production, Development, Service, and Applications Engineering divisions worldwide and has increased employees from 35 to 85. Along with the personnel expansion, in 2013 Concept Laser opened a new Research and Development (R&D) center. The 670 m2 R&D center allows for expanded testing capacity with dedicated development equipment for the LaserCUSING. The new center offers Concept Laser engineers the perfect platform for process and system development. Engineering developments from the new center includes the recent release of LaserCUSING System X line 1000R in XXL format.

Due to the growing demand for generative laser melting with metals in the USA, Concept Laser announced their plans to open a US subsidiary. Together with the existing subsidiary in China, and the company headquarters in Europe, this will place Concept Laser in prime locations around the world to support their growing customer base.

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Concept Laser expands the range to include a new flexible model in a small format with the suffix "R" for titanium applications. The new Mlab cusing R was developed to allow economic fabrication of delicate dental products and medical implants, and for medical instruments made from titanium.

The small machines in the Mlab cusing family allow users to start off in the "flyweight class" of additive manufacturing with metals. Generally, since the Mlab cusing machines were introduced at the start of 2011, they have been opening up the market segment for small delicate components in economic terms. The new Mlab cusing R now also expands the previous range of materials to include titanium and titanium alloys. The clever thing about the Mlab cusing R is the "drawer principle" with what is known as a glovebox module for safe handling of the material. The patented drawer principle from Concept Laser enables a quick change of material without the risk of any contamination of powder materials.

Quality with no compromises

The generative method makes a substantial contribution to improving quality. Cavity formation, rejects and a large amount of reworking, which can arise with the casting method, are now a thing of the past. The Mlab cusing combines a high degree of freedom of geometry, quality and increased material density. Metal laser melting is also a very contemporary method, particularly from the point of view of time: In contrast to the traditional casting method, it offers the advantage that the fully automatic, generative production process can run unattended and overnight. An order can be processed and delivered to the customer the very next day, additive manufacturing with metals means consistently high quality with a short delivery time, and consistent results, time after time.

Change comes as standard – drawer principle allows quick change of material

The concept behind the Mlab cusing R is ideally suited to the production of components with delicate structures made from titanium. It offers a perfect look and structures when a high surface quality and the finest component structures where it matters. The Mlab cusing offers extremely compact dimensions of 705 x 1848 x 1220 mm (WxHxD) coupled with a weight of 500 kg. The clever thing about the Mlab cusing R is the "drawer principle" with the patented glovebox module for safe handling of the powder. The operating principle is extremely practical and simple: The glovebox module is docked onto the machine for the loading and unloading process. The build module can simply be pulled out into the glovebox thanks to the drawer principle. The glovebox is then flooded with argon to inert the chamber, essential for safe titanium processing. The operator accesses the build chamber through the glovebox gloves in order to carry out the loading process or to remove components. After the end of the process, the build module is moved back into the machine and finally the glovebox is undocked. The retractable drawer system is regarded as extremely user-friendly. This includes both the build chamber with dose chamber and the storage container. The drawer system is available in three different build envelope versions: 50 x 50, 70 x 70 and 90 x 90 mm, with the height of the build envelope always 80 mm. The drawer principle enables the use of different build envelopes in a machine. The user can easily exchange the drawers and this ensures flexibility: This offers particular advantages when processing precious-metal alloys because their high material prices mean that it is advisable to use a smaller build envelope. In addition, it is easy to remove the drawers for the purpose of storing materials. Contamination of the powder with oxygen is ruled out because of the component structure in a closed system. The Mlab cusing R is designed in accordance with ATEX directives for safe processing of reactive materials such as titanium and titanium alloys.

The heart of the machine – the laser

The robust and powerful 100 W fibre laser operates with a focus diameter of less than 25 µm in order to reproduce supreme surface qualities and intricate and delicate component structures.

LaserCUSING in XS format with titanium and titanium alloys for the first time

The Mlab cusing R offers a range of ever increasing materials, to include: gold, silver alloys, bronze, cobalt-chromium alloys and stainless steel. New materials which can now also be processed on the machine are titanium and titanium alloys such as Rematitan® CL from Dentaurum, CL41TI ELI (Ti6Al4V) and pure titanium. This increasing variety of material options, make this new machine attractive to different sectors of industry and their specific applications.

Retrofitting is possible

The Mlab cusing machines which are currently on the market can be retrofitted as a customer upgrade. Qualified service engineer install this upgrade package to the machine to level "R", followed by a training session in the handling of reactive materials like titanium and the special safety procedures needed.

Bionics included – LaserCUSING focuses consistently on dental and medical technology

The new Mlab cusing R also expands the previous range of materials to include titanium and titanium alloys, such as rematitan® CL from Dentaurum. One particularly striking characteristic is the high material density, which for the extreme mechanical loads offers advantages over conventional cast parts in dental applications. However, laser fusing also allows bionic structures for use in implant technology. This enables implants to be constructed with a porous structure. As part of this process, cellular structures which support growth into the bone tissue are integrated into the component. Such macroporous surface structures for improving the level of growth into the bone tissue may be used for hip implants, for example. In this field of application, specific, geometric characteristic features can be taken into account in order to allow new functions or functional integration. Depending on what is required, the volume structure of the implant can be adapted to that of the bone tissue in order to ensure that it works durably over a long period of time. Larger machine concepts such as the M2 cusing from Concept Laser are of course also available for larger components.

Increase potential for adding value

If you are currently looking to switch from the conventional milling or casting fabrication of dental or medical implants, as well as delicate and intricate medical components or instruments, the Mlab cusing from Concept Laser provides you with new options in terms of cost calculation and order throughput. The generatively produced component simply has to be separated from the build plate, the supporting geometry removed and then finished. The potential for adding value offered by LaserCUSING is opening up new horizons – now also in an XS format for beginners.

Overview of the new Mlab cusing R

  • Machine for LaserCUSING with a low level of investment
  • Compact machine
  • Benefits in order throughput time
  • High material density
  • Less reworking
  • Standardised production process
  • Constantly high quality
  • Less wastage
  • Fewer material costs
  • Improved efficiency
  • Increasing range of materials to currently include: gold, silver alloys, bronze, titanium, titanium alloys, cobalt-chromium alloys and stainless steel

Benefits in the choice of materials

The new Mlab cusing R offers universal material options: gold, silver alloys, bronze, titanium, titanium alloys, cobalt-chromium alloys and stainless steel, all can be currently processed generatively.

For dental technology, Dentaurum is the partner of Concept Laser. The Dentaurum Group, which leads the way in the field of stainless-steel-free alloys, produces exclusive powder materials to order for the LaserCUSING process. Two patented and clinically proven materials which were previously available as alloys in the form of cast cylinders and as milling blanks for conventional fabrication are now available to users exclusively in powder form: remanium® star CL and rematitan® CL.

The products which are produced using the laser-fusing process meet the requirements of the German Medical Devices Act (DIN EN ISO 9693 / DIN EN ISO 22674).

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Technological change offers very dynamic developments within mould making. In the middle of 2012, W. Fassnacht Werkzeug- und Formenbau, Bobingen, supplied its 1,000th generatively fabricated mould insert for conformal cooling. Within the space of five years the LaserCUSING technology has developed to become an important factor in Bobingen; working alongside the traditional manufacturing processes like, turning, milling and EDM. The reasons for the increasing importance of additive manufacturing with metals can be found daily in modern mould making.

With LaserCUSING, cooling channels can be placed very close to the surface of the contour of the mould. Complex parts with different wall thicknesses, including ribs and webs, can therefore be cooled "close to the action". It was back in 2008 that Fassnacht invested in LaserCUSING machines from Concept Laser from Lichtenfels. Conformal cooling systems are intelligently created, a few years ago this was not regarded as achievable in relation to the flow behaviour, but modern techniques make this easily possible today. In addition to a real reduction in the cycle time, both warpage and accuracy in the final part can also be greatly improved thanks to the cooling.

Conformal cooling: Design and cross sections

The cross sections of the cooling channels are >5 mm and, according to Wolfgang Fassnacht, are technically consistent and reliable. This means there is the possibility of placing them 2–3 mm below the mould contour surface,  in order to achieve optimum cooling. The contrary, heat control, can also be performed via such channels, this for example is greatly illustrated in the case of parts with a requirement for a high-gloss finish. Certain moulds even have both tasks in separate circuits: Surfaces with a high-gloss finish are tempered and on the inner contour areas such as ribs, can be cooled in order to prevent warpage. Historically, moulds which have been produced at Fassnacht with this cooling technology, reach achievable and realistic reductions in the cycle time on series moulds of up to 40%. This technique offers enormous advantages in  adding value for the production operation, bringing  a level of understanding and control never available using conventional processes.

Issue of costs and speed in mould making

The short development times of modern moulds creates enormous time pressures for product developers, mould-makers and suppliers . The metal additive manufacturing process also allows for the possibility to fuse powder materials on top of original material layer by layer, commonly called “Hybrid Style”. This technique reduces the overall costs and time to build cores and inserts, focusing on using Additive Technology in areas of greatest requirement.  Today’s hardness levels up to 52HRC are achieved, depending on the material, and works with Hybrid Style parts just as easily.  When we consider conventional manufacturing processes, within any company a highly skilled and trained set of personnel are involved, and generally turning, and milling processes have to be continuously monitored. This is different with the additive manufacturing of metals: With the generative metal laser melting process, the mould-maker saves time in the design and manufacturing phase and it is also easier to incorporate possible requests for changes to be made. Once the parameters have been chosen, the LaserCUSING machine from Concept Laser can be operated unmanned 24 hours a day. In the case "hybrid technology" parts too, the mould-maker saves both time and costs. The formative residual geometry including the remaining cooling-channel design can be "fused" onto a prefabricated basic body, with predrilled feed and drain holes for the cooling, by means of LaserCUSING.  With a mixed type of construction, this procedure has already proven to be the fastest and most economical method in many cases. The general rule is that generative technology produces a faster result – and is overwhelmingly cheaper.

Inserts for round parts

According to the experiences gained at Fassnacht, round parts in particular are very suitable for inserts based on metal additive manufacturing. Round mould inserts can be manufactured much cheaper with the LaserCUSING technology. This is because with integration of conformal cooling there is no need for any recesses and grooves for O-rings. It is therefore easier to construct the insert. As a consequence, the outlay on design, manufacturing and reworking is greatly reduced and consequently so are the overall costs Traditional methods, from the procurement of a steel rod from the warehouse through to finish use, are more complicated and expensive to manufacture than with LaserCUSING. At Fassnacht, the "generative approach" with a laser is very important in design and mould making.

Reducing part costs

There are numerous reasons for the trend towards conformal cooling, both technical and economic: "In production, moulds should earn money in terms of the unit costs and this is all the more true with large volumes," says Wolfgang Fassnacht. Process-reliable moulds which help to outsmart the physics and reduce cycle times enhance the creation of added value in production. The 1,000th mould insert for conformal cooling from Fassnacht demonstrates the success of this strategy adopted by mould purchasers and manufacturing specialists, but with the constant reminder that with all new technology and developments, it has to be a profitable and commercially viable.

Advantages of metal additive manufacturing in mould making

  • Optimisation of the manufacturing costs
  • Time saving during design and mould making
  • Visual quality
  • Cycle time reduction (with conformal cooling)
  • Unmanned production.
  • Reduced failed parts due to distortion or warpage
  • Hybrid Build techniques
  • Customisation
  • Lower modification costs
  • Construction of prototypes and samples

Mould Maker of the Year 2012

In the category "External mould maker with fewer than 50 employees", W. Fassnacht Werkzeug- und Formenbau  won 1st place in 2012. The jury gave the following "special reasons" for its decision:

  • One of the smallest companies in the competition.
  • Similar structure to large companies, but much more streamlined, flexible and effective.
  • Manufacturing technologies equivalent to those of large mould makers or better, but consistently integrated in the company, so the employees demonstrate much stronger innovative activities.
  • A very wide range of parts and customers with the corresponding transfer of innovation know-how and technology.
  • No dependence on particular customers or sectors.
  • No bottlenecks caused by lots of rotation and training of the employees.
  • Short pathways, leading to rapid agreement and thus time and cost benefits.
  • Swift decisions.
  • Personal contacts with customers and suppliers, in some cases through to the machine operators.

Continuous expansion

In just a few years since it was founded in 1990, the Swabian company Fassnacht developed into a mould maker which, although it is medium-sized, has become well known beyond the confines of southern Germany. And there are good reasons for this:

The company has so far competed six times in the "EXCELLENCE IN PRODUCTION" contest, which is staged right across Germany. The reward for its efforts came in 2004 with 2nd place and one year later with 1st place in the category: "External mould maker with fewer than 100 employees". In 2007 the company, which is based in Bobingen in Germany, was able to stand right at the top of the podium as the overall winner. In 2009 Fassnacht defied the economic crisis to once again claim an outstanding 2nd place result; in 2010 the company was able to celebrate its 20th anniversary and again rejoice at 1st place in a very strong field of competitors. Most recently, in 2012, Fassnacht claimed 1st place in its category as "Mould Maker of the Year 2012".

Another characteristic typical of such solid companies is career progression. Wolfgang Fassnacht started off small as a 25-year-old master mould maker. Working from a backyard workshop, one year later he moved into new rented premises in Königsbrunn. The company grew steadily and today it is able with a solid team of 20 employees to develop solutions for all mould-making requirements to manufacture injection-moulded products.

As "Made by Fassnacht" has gained a reputation, clients from a wide range of different sectors are coming to Bobingen: From the automotive and medical sector, from the packaging and household technology sector, and from the construction and electrical sector.

Fassnacht is synonymous with highly complex injection moulds, for example multi-component and thin-wall technology and insert mouldings of films. A consistently high quality standard and absolute flexibility in meeting customer requirements justify the company's reputation as being a fast and expert supplier of moulds. Reliability and clear agreements characterise the company's relationship with its customers.

The themes of hybrid construction and conformal cooling with mould inserts have since 2008 been an innovative subject in Bobingen. The additive manufacturing of metals (LaserCUSING) makes it possible to fabricate individual components and mass-produced components or cooling geometries with a hybrid design quickly and cost-effectively.

Fassnacht is a member of the VDWF (Association of German Tool and Mould Makers).

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Additive manufacturing with metals is becoming increasingly important in the automotive industry. Time and cost reductions in production are making this generative technology increasingly attractive to the carmakers. The primary focus is on aluminium alloys which provide the basis for lightweight automobile construction. For applications involving vehicle and engine technology, but also from other areas, Daimler AG is now consistently embracing the resource-efficient, generative laser melting of metals. In order to meet all future assignments, the Swabia-based company got the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT) and the LaserCUSING specialist Concept Laser to develop a new super laser melting machine X line 1000R whose build chamber size surpasses anything that was known previously.

The Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen and Concept Laser from Lichtenfels are presenting the new high-performance LaserCUSING® machine X line 1000R for fabricating series components in an XXL format to the general public for the first time at Euromold 2012. A first machine is already in operation at Daimler AG.

Pilot machine on a mega scale

The large machine X line 1000R boasts a superlative build chamber which, according to Frank Herzog, managing director of Concept Laser, has impressive dimensions. The X line 1000R was developed for the tool-less manufacturing of large functional components and technical prototypes with material properties which are identical throughout the range. The centrepiece of the X line 1000R consists of a high-power laser in the kilowatt range which enables an increase in productivity of up to a factor of 10 compared with standard laser fusing machines available on the market.

Develop complex components faster

The machine was specifically configured to cater for Daimler AG's special requirements for automobile applications. The aim of Daimler AG was to replace costly sand-casting and die-casting applications in early phases of development. In addition, the LaserCUSING process will in future offer the possibility of generating lightweight structures with a high level of rigidity which will permit weight-optimised geometries, with almost no restrictions on the design, but at present cannot be manufactured in this way with the manufacturing techniques which are available today.

Cooperation between Daimler, Fraunhofer ILT and Concept Laser

The project partners got together as part of the "Alu generative research and development project (German Ministry of Education and Research)“. The Fraunhofer ILT examined, together with different partners from industry, including Daimler AG, the laser fusing technology for production applications involving aluminium components. The industrial use for fabricating production components was previously, mainly as a result of the materials and costs, restricted to smaller components or dental and medical technology. As part of the project, the application potential for manufacturing aluminium components for other areas of industry was examined. The well-known characteristics of the production process include conservation of resources, independence from mould-making, freedom of geometry, as well as the speed of construction and development. The examinations were appraised at Daimler as a fundamentally new way of looking at manufacturing options with the aim of creating innovative and environmentally friendly products. From the point of view of the development partners, these also provided a solid basis for tackling the pressure of costs in production and safeguarding Germany's long-term future as a place for high-tech manufacturing.

Requirement in automotive construction

The demands of Daimler AG as an industrial partner were a significant increase in the build-up rates, an improvement in the quality of the surface finish, reproducibility and reliability of the machine as a result of appropriate process monitoring, as well as the qualification of further aluminium series alloys for a range of applications. The Fraunhofer ILT, which has been one of the leading research institutions in the field of laser melting for over 15 years, supplied its know-how for designing the kW laser beam source and the matching optical lens system in order to ensure the desired build-up rates of different aluminium alloys. In addition, the process control for processing the different alloys alongside the machine construction was worked out and the mechanical properties of the components were examined.

Concept Laser as a machine constructor

The preliminary work now needed to be turned into "solid" machine technology. In parallel with this, the functional specification was drawn up at Concept Laser in Lichtenfels together with the partners and the design phase for the new X line 1000R was then started. The findings which had been obtained in the meantime by the Fraunhofer ILT, e.g. in relation to temperature control of the build chamber in order to avoid any warping in the "oversized" components, and in relation to the design of the powder application system were consistently implemented in the design of the X line 1000R. "This really was uncharted territory for us. The development of a machine concept of these dimensions in close collaboration with Daimler AG and the Fraunhofer ILT, based on our LaserCUSING® technology, clearly illustrates our claim to be the technology leader in the field of laser melting. This patented, top-class machine technology from Concept Laser has been exported throughout the world since 2000. As a result of the cooperation project with Daimler and the Fraunhofer ILT, we hope that the generative machine technology will meet customers' requirements on a broad basis and that it can be employed profitably," says Frank Herzog in reflecting on the cooperation project. For the development of parts at Daimler AG, the high and flexible availability of such a machine opens up entirely new possibilities for further optimisation of the product development process.

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