Generative manufacturing processes have the potential to enable mass production of personalized products. Even highly intricate structures could be resource-efficiently manufactured through additive laser beam techniques. However, the manufacturing processes for additively manufactured components had hitherto been time-consuming and costly, as individual process steps were viewed in isolation and entailed numerous manual interventions. The integration of these process steps in additive manufacturing held significant potential for time and cost savings.
Within the framework of the research project "IDEA - Industrialization of Digital Engineering and Additive Manufacturing," the potential of additive manufacturing processes for a more flexible and customer-oriented industrial production was explored. The research project aimed to establish an efficient additive process chain and reduce product costs as well as development and lead times by approximately 50 percent. The process chain for powder-based laser beam melting (Laser Powder Bed Fusion, LPBF) for series production served as an exemplary case.
To achieve this goal, the project team primarily leveraged digitalization methods. A digital process chain for products, manufacturing methods, and processes, process simulations, a modern production control system, and comprehensive capture of manufacturing data constituted key components of the eleven work packages.
Within the project's scope, a comprehensive methodology for an automated additive-subtractive process chain was developed, alongside a systematic approach to gauge the level of automation. Moreover, interfaces for integrating automated systems into manufacturing environments were defined, a process simulation model for quantifying manufacturing technological and economic metrics was established, and various methods for automated powder removal were identified and evaluated.
In the domain of post-processing, the project team formulated methodologies for removing support structures. Initially, the prevailing status quo was captured, followed by the development of a methodology enabling precise simulation of the interaction between tools and support structures during milling. This interaction simulation aimed to precisely describe the chip geometry during the milling process of support structures. Simultaneously, experimental investigations were conducted for a comprehensive analysis of the machinability of support structures. Assessments were based on recorded process forces and an in-depth analysis of tool wear.
The digital process chain underwent refinement through the formulation of a decision logic for the optimal design of additive-subtractive process chains. Factors such as machinery, workpiece features, and costs were considered. To effectively harness diverse data sources, a methodology for data integration was devised. This facilitated simultaneous integration and processing of data from heterogeneous sources. For practical implementation of these approaches, the "PyProcessNet" (PPN) framework was implemented, which supported parallel data processing and promoted seamless collaboration in process optimization.
The developed methods and solutions by Fraunhofer IPT are already available, supporting our partners and clients in optimizing their additive manufacturing processes.
The research project "IDEA - Industrialization of Digital Engineering and Additive Manufacturing" was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).