Generative manufacturing processes have the potential to increase the flexibility of industrial production and to integrate connected customers and business partners more firmly within the production process. Additive laser or electron beam technology can be used to manufacture even very complex structures without major additional outlay. This opens the door to customized mass production. However, the production processes for parts produced using additive methods remain time consuming and expensive since the majority of the individual steps in the process are performed in isolation from one another and involve considerable manual intervention. This means that there is considerable capacity for saving time and manufacturing costs by linking various steps in the additive manufacturing process.
The aim of the "IDEA research project – Industrialization of Digital Engineering and Additive Manufacturing" is to make powder-bed fusion processes suitable for mass production. The intention is to reduce product costs as well as development and throughput times by some 50 percent using this production process. There is enormous potential for achieving these economies by increasing efficiency in coupling hardware and software. The digital twins of the products to be produced and of the entire production line will be used to transform the current trial and error type production process, characterized by frequent human intervention into a highly efficient production line. Plans have been drawn up to ensure that the advantages in terms of time and cost are achieved primarily by using consistent data formats and process simulation, via process simulation, use of a state-of-the-art production control system and systematic collection of production data.
Following a development and implementation phase, it is envisaged that the second half of the project will include a validation stage at which point the degree to which the aims have been achieved will be measured on the basis of the production of demo-parts on two pilot production lines. The blueprint for a large-scale industrial production line will be drawn up by Siemens-Gasturbinenwerk Berlin and one for a production line suitable for small and medium-sized enterprises will be developed by MBFZ tool craft GmbH in Georgensgmünd.
The automated production line will have a modular structure and it is anticipated that it will demonstrate that the industrialization of additive production processes is just as much a viable option for large-scale German corporations as for small and medium-sized enterprises. The project is divided into eleven work packages, each focusing systematically on the horizontal process chain – from product design to the finished product.
German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, Photonics Research Germany, Förderinitiative "Linienintegration additiver Fertigungsverfahren (LAF)"