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Optisys Uses SLM Technology To Manufacture Parts For Space Missions

Optisys Uses SLM Technology To Manufacture Parts For Space Missions

Optisys is a revolutionary RF product development and manufacture company with a unique approach to creating highly integrated products, enabled by metal additive manufacturing. Its well-known customers rely on its broad spectrum of solutions, which includes feeds, slotted flat panels and phased arrays for antenna and radar applications used everywhere from sea to outer space.

With the SLM 500, the company now owns a high-tech metal additive manufacturing system; excellent for producing high-strength metal components. Janos Opra, Optisys CEO, explains: “We are a company that wouldn’t exist without additive manufacturing. The SLM 500 gives us exactly what we need, for example, to manufacture antennas used on space missions.” To do this, the components produced must be able to withstand the harsh conditions of the entire range of space environments from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to deep space probes. Opra explains: “The atomic oxygen in the atmosphere virtually sandblasts the parts. They also must withstand high heat loads, and extreme temperature cycling, on other planets. The SLM parts are not only lightweight, but they can also manage harsh conditions and are particularly robust with excellent performance.”

Compared to conventional manufacturing methods, SLM technology can produce lightweight components by integrating internal hollow structures while maintaining a consistently high component quality. Even small reductions in weight, through component integration, can lead to enormous cost advantages through a reduction in launch costs; which are priced per kg and are a major cost driver for space companies. Due to these unique advantages and the pressure to keep costs to a minimum, conventional manufacturing methods are hardly an option for major players in the space industry.

“Additive manufacturing technology ensures we can create the lightest, strongest and best performing RF products available,” continued Opra. “By coupling large aspects of the RF system into single components or repeatable tiles, our customers can reduce weight enormously over competing suppliers. This is of prime importance for many players in the ‘New Space’ market particularly.”

The SLM 500 is a multi-laser system with up to four 700W lasers working simultaneously. It features closed powder handling with automated powder sieving and supply during the build process without any powder contact. The ability to change the build cylinder minimises machine downtime, maximises productivity and reduces cost per part. Due to a smart assembly in the build envelope, Optisys produces several individual components in one build process with the SLM 500 – something that is particularly efficient and not possible with conventional manufacturing methods.

Sam O’Leary, CEO of SLM Solutions, emphasises: “We are proud that metal-based additive manufacturing is making such an important contribution to space missions. This deployment demonstrates how robust the parts produced with SLM technology are. Innovative, top-tier companies such as Optisys continue to drive additive manufacturing forward and bring it to other planets. It makes us proud to enable their success.”



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Growing Possibilities Of 3D Printing In The Aerospace Industry

Growing Possibilities Of 3D Printing In The Aerospace Industry

Selective Laser Melting offers a wide range of possibilities in the 3D Printing of metal-based parts. Using a rocket engine, CellCore looks into the possibilities that SLM technology can offer for the aerospace industry. Article by SLM Solutions. 

Selective Laser Melting (SLM) offers a wide range of possibilities in the additive manufacturing of metal-based parts. Additive manufacturing allows metal parts to be created with internal structures allowing the part to be stronger and lighter than if it were produced through traditional manufacturing methods. A further advantage is in the integration of several components in one component. This functional integration and a low post-processing effort lead to considerable cost savings in the manufacturing process. 

Using a rocket engine, the company CellCore has demonstrated the advantages of selective laser melting and how it can be optimally utilised in the aerospace industry. Printed in a nickel-based superalloy, a monolithic component was created in collaboration with SLM Solutions. 

3D-printed Rocket Engine

The demonstrator manufactured by CellCore and SLM Solutions consists of a thrust chamber, the core element of a liquid-propellant engine with a combustion chamber wall, a fuel inlet, and an injection head with oxidant inlet. The chemical reaction in the combustion chamber creates a gas that expands due to heat development and is then ejected with enormous force. The thrust required to drive the rocket is therefore created using recoil. Extremely high temperatures are created in the chamber during the combustion process, so the wall must be cooled to prevent it from burning, too. To achieve this, the liquid fuel (e.g. kerosene or hydrogen) is fed upwards through cooling ducts in the combustion chamber wall before entering through the injection head. There, the fuel mixes with the oxidant and is lit by a spark plug. In conventional constructions, the cooling ducts are countersunk in a blank and subsequently sealed through multiple working steps. 

With selective laser melting, the cooling is integrated as part of the design and created together with the chamber in one process. Due to the engine‘s complexity, the traditional manufacturing process is cost-intensive, requiring half a year minimum. Additive manufacturing on the other hand, requires fewer than five working days to create an improved component.

Filigree Structural Cooling to Increase Efficiency

The single-piece rocket propulsion engine, combining the injector and thrust chamber, reduces numerous individual components into one, with multi-functional lightweight construction achievable only with the selective laser melting process. 

The internal structure developed by CellCore is the fundamental element of the engine and cannot be manufactured by traditional methods. It is not only suited to transport heat, but also improves the structural stability of the component. The cooling properties of the CellCore design considerably outperform conventional approaches, such as right-angled, concentrically running cooling ducts.

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Recap: Additive Manufacturing Deployments In Southeast Asia

Recap: Additive Manufacturing Deployments In Southeast Asia

Amid the ongoing global health issue, additive manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing is proving in real time that it is speeding production and bringing new ideas to the market at a lower cost to deliver the needed healthcare equipment and devices the world desperately needs.

In market research released earlier this year, Grand View Research Inc. reported that the overall additive manufacturing industry is projected to reach $35.38 billion by 2027, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 14.6 percent over the same forecast period. However, the 3D printing industry still has its share of challenges, such as efficiency that the process yields, the machines, and materials.

In line with this, Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News (APMEN), in conjunction with SLM Solutions, SIEMENS, Universal Robots, Markforged, NAMIC, and GlobalData held a two-part webinar aimed at helping manufacturers understand 3D printing better and gather insights on the way forward for additive manufacturing in Southeast Asia.

In the first installment of the two-part webinar on 24 November 2020 with SLM Solutions, Siemens and Globaldata, we covered the different AM deployments in Southeast Asia, the process challenges, and the key considerations toward successful adoption.

Watch the round table discussion during the second session held on 15 Dec with SLM Solutions Singapore, Markforged, Universal Robots NAMIC here! 

Where has COVID-19 left us in 2020?

Opening the session with a keynote presentation, David Bicknell, Principal Analyst, Thematic Research at Globaldata gave an insightful overview of where the pandemic has left the additive manufacturing industry in 2020. He discusses the impact of the pandemic, developments in AM and opportunities for ASEAN.

With the pandemic paralysing supply chains, David also highlights how 3D printing can be the solution to building more resilient supply chains and how more companies are embracing 3D printing. He also covered briefly insights from HP which examines the current perception of digital manufacturing.

3D printing has proved to be a source of optimism, and David rounded the session by sharing innovative feats during this challenging environment such as biomimetic tongue surfaces and printed door handles. Where would 3D printing bring us in 2021?

Key Considerations for Successful AM Adoption

Lu Zhen, Lead Application Engineer at SLM Solutions Singapore, speaks about successful AM adoption and projects worldwide—such as the 3D printed titanium brake caliper for Bugati race car—the different stages of AM adoption and market growth, and four key considerations for successful AM adoption: design, in terms of effectiveness and weight; material strength and compatibility; process scalability and repeatability; and economics or cost.

Lu also speaks about factors that would enable increasing adoption and industrialization of AM, such as systematic qualification processes and standards, specialised knowledge, IP, and having a mature supply chain.

Finally, he presents some of the AM projects in Southeast Asia, such as the anti-cavitation trim for EMERSON; core insert for plastic injection mould, for OMNI MOLD; impellers for maritime application, for ShipParts.Com; motor mount base and clutch for race cars, in collaboration with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) of Singapore; and a battery hull for submarine robots, developed in collaboration with the National University of Singapore (NUS).

3D Printed Face Shield

While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has stalled manufacturing activities worldwide, it has, at the same time, highlighted the speed and flexibility of 3D printing to create and deliver the desperately needed healthcare equipment and devices.

For instance, it has provided Siemens and its Industry 4.0 partners an opportunity to combine their strengths to locally develop and manufacture a face shield designed by Singapore’s Tan Tock Seng Hospital using additive manufacturing. This fully local collaboration saw Siemens’ Advance Manufacturing Transformation Centre (AMTC), supported by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), HP’s Smart Manufacturing Applications and Research Centre (SMARC), and Mitsui Chemicals come together to design, optimise and manufacture the face shields in an accelerated product introduction cycle of under two months.

Benjamin Moey, Vice President, Advance Manufacturing, for ASEAN, at Siemens Pte Ltd, and also the head of Siemens’ AMTC, talks more about this in his presentation, as well as demonstrated the actual 3D-printed face shield.

Wrap Up

The webinar closed the session with a lively Q&A session between the three presenters—SLM’s Lu, Siemens’ Boey, and GlobalData’s Bicknell—with attendees asking questions on simulation technology related to 3D printing; 3D printing software; injection moulding versus 3D printing (in case of the face shield); availability of material base supply; best ways service bureaus can market themselves to attract AM clients; and whether AM will finally see the day it will be used for mass production.

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Harnessing Synergies – Combining Competencies

Harnessing Synergies – Combining Competencies

Paul Horn GmbH uses additive manufacturing to produce its own tools, particularly when making prototypes, special tools and tool holders.

Having recognised the advanced possibilities offered by additive manufacturing, Horn is now making these available to its customers and partners as well. To facilitate this step into the future, Horn is creating a new “Additive Manufacturing” production area. This department is closely linked to mechanical production and powder analysis as well as quality assurance.

Horn is using a process called SLM (selective laser melting), a powder bed process that also goes by the name of direct metal laser sintering. In this technique, the metal powder is applied to a lowerable platform in layers and then the relevant area is targeted and melted by the laser. This process is repeated until the required component height has been achieved. The only materials being used by Horn for the time being are aluminium (AlSi10Mg) and stainless steel (1.4404). However, other materials are currently being tested. The maximum build area is 300 x 300 x 300 mm (11.811 x 11.811 x 11.811″).

As Horn keeps all the production stages in-house, it is able to respond to customer requirements directly. The parts are produced in various designs according to customers’ wishes. Horn also helps customers to choose a structure that is compatible with the SLM method and to select appropriate powder-based parameters. Depending on what customers require, Horn can produce everything from unfinished and semi-finished products right through to the finished component. Further advantages are the ability to make use of the available machinery and appropriate measuring equipment.

Images 1 and 2: Components that can be produced using the additive manufacturing method.


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